Why Jesus is Greater than the Holy Spirit

I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. This is how I would formulate this doctrine:

I believe in one God (ousia), who exists eternally in three persons (hypostasis) — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — all of whom are fully God, all of whom are equal.

Since there is only one God, one member of the Trinity, in his essence, cannot have more power, authority, or dignity than another. They all share in the exact same nature (ousia, ontos, “stuff”). I did not understand this until later in my Christian life. For many years I existed as a functional polytheist (a tritheist, to be technically precise). I believed the three members of the Trinity shared in a similar nature, not the exact same nature. In other words, just like you and I share in the nature of being homo sapiens, so the members of the Trinity are all from the “God species” . . . or something like that. But this is a bad analogy since, though you and I may be the same species, we are different in essence. You are you and I am me. I have my body and you have yours. But in the Trinity, all three persons share in the exact same essence. One in nature; three in person. One what; three whos.

Confused? Good. Anytime you have an “aha!” moment with regard to the Trinity, it is a good sign you have just entered into the world of heresy.

While I don’t believe there is an ontological hierarchy (gradation of essence, or all that stuff I said above), I do believe there can be a hierarchy in person. In other words, one member of the Trinity can take on a different rank than another. I think we can all agree that at the incarnation, this hierarchy presented itself as Father, then Son, then Spirit. After all, even Christ said that the Father was greater than he was (John 14:28). This is sometimes called a “functional hierarchy.” This should not be too difficult to process, as we can see many analogies to this in our own world. For example, President Obama is greater than I am in one respect. He is the President of the United States. Therefore, his position and authority are greater than mine. But he is not greater in essence. Similarly, parents are greater than children in rank. But they are not greater in their being. And (cover your eyes, egalitarians) I believe the Bible presents the husband as having greater authority than his wife. However, he is not greater in his ontos or humanity.

When it comes to the Holy Spirit, I believe the Holy Spirit is last on the divine authority totem pole. The Father sends the Son, the Son sends the Holy Spirit, and the Father is sent by none. There is much less said about the Holy Spirit in the New Testament than either the Father or the Son. But as far as honor and dignity, it would seem that Jesus Christ tops them all. When I read the Bible, I am struck by how much Christ is the center of all things. He is the image of God which is seen, the one who becomes incarnate and relates to humanity more than any other, he is the one who calls us friend, he is our intercessor, and he is the one in whom we are to believe for eternal life. In fact, the very name of our faith finds its basis in his name. It is not called Holy Spiritanity or Fatheranity. It is not even called Yahwehanity. It is called Christ-ianity.

Another way to think about it can be illustrated as follows: The first two members of the Trinity have very relational names. We find it easy to relate to the title “Father,” since most of us have an example (though not perfect) through our earthly fathers. So “Father” is endearing. And “Jesus” is a personal name. I figure that he will always go by that handle. And the father may always go by “Father.” But what about the Holy Spirit? “Holy Spirit” is such a distant and (forgive me) cold name. Is that really his name? First name “Holy” last name “Spirit”?  Do those who are close to him just call him “Holy,” while everyone calls him “Mr. Spirit”? Maybe in heaven we can get the insider scoop on what his real name is (not Yahweh…that is a Trinitarian name, as they are all Yahweh). Maybe Bob, John, Nate, or Michael. Just something more personal, as I envision having a very distinct relationship with him in the new earth.

My point is this: the Holy Spirit, while having equal power, authority, and diginity as the Father and the Son, and having the same nature as Jesus and the Father, is the least spoken about and recognized of all three members of the Trinity. By the way, before you begin to feel sorry for him, realize this: this is intentional. The Holy Spirit does not seek air time. We often talk about Christ’s humility (and rightly so), but we rarely recognize the Holy Spirit’s humility. His primary purpose is not to get you to recognize him (as deserving as he is), but to recognize Christ.

In the Upper Room Discourse (John 14-17, the most Trinitarian section of the Bible), Christ speaks a lot about sending  the Holy Spirit (sometimes called “the Helper” or “the Spirit of Truth”), but notice what the primary goal of the Holy Spirit will be:

John 15:26
“When the Helper [Holy Spirit] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.”

Did you get that? The all-powerful, omniscient, everlasting creator of all things — the Holy Spirit — will not testify about himself, his glory, and his person, but about Christ, whom the Holy Spirit loves with a greater love than we ccould ever imagine. Why doesn’t the Holy Spirit testify about himself? After all, he has every reason to pat himself on the back and toot his own horn, yet all he wants to talk about is Jesus. Why?

I can’t tell you how the role distinctions were chosen for redemption. It is possible that the Holy Spirit could have been the one who became incarnate and died on the cross. It could have been the Holy Spirit to whom all attention was given. Yet this is not the case. He elected to humble himself to the point of almost non-recognition.

I believe the Holy Spirit is just as much God as the Father and the Son. I believe the Holy Spirit deserves as much honor as the other members of the Trinity. Yet the greatest way for you to honor the Holy Spirit and evidence his work in you is to glorify Christ. What an example He is.

Why is Jesus greater in function than the Holy Spirit? Because that is the way he wants it. Amazing!

95 Responses to “Why Jesus is Greater than the Holy Spirit”

  1. Thank you for this article!

    I have one question. You wrote near the end that:

    I believe that the Holy Spirit deserves as much honor as the other members of the Trinity.
    Would that entail praying directly to the Holy Spirit?

    • No, I don’t think so. What I meant was that he deserves as much honor even though, even when practiced rightly, Christians honor him most when we fill our thought with Christ.

      • I disagree with Patton here. I think you can pray directly to all three persons, because God is one. I pray the following prayer (feel free to pray this prayer too):
        Holy, Holy, Holy
        Father, Son, Spirit

        Father, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, I worship You. I pray that today I would glorify You continually.

        Jesus, Savior and Lord, I worship You. I pray that today I would take up my cross and follow You.

        Holy Spirit, I worship You. I pray that You would fill me with Yourself and cause Your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace,patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
        Holy, Holy, Holy
        Father, Son, Spirit
        Glorious God, have mercy on me.

  2. Thank you Michael.
    Would it be a sin to pray directly to Him?

  3. Michael, Godly functions are not exclusive to Godly essence. God is love and functions as love. God can not be greater or lesser than Himself. I sometimes wonder what part of the word mystery we trinitarians do not get. 1 Timothy 3:16

    • Well, Jesus does say that the Father is greater than he is. So in some respect there is a greater than or less than in the Trinity. Certainly it is not ontological or we would have three God. And it can’t be modal as Christ would have a pretty good case of multiple personality disorder.

  4. No. Not sin. Not really the pattern, but I would never say it is a sin.

  5. Thank you Michael for this enlightening study on the Trinity. It reminds of the struggle to understand something of our un-comprehensible God. Your contribution to this debate is most valuable to me. Basil the Great (†379 A.D.) Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia was the theologian who formulated the Trinity as three Persons but one Substance! And even now the last word on understanding the Trinity had not yet been spoken. I did a little study on the “trinity-verse” known as the “comma Johanneum”, 1John 5:7-8. ( Even with the addition of this verse to our Bibles in 1522 A.D. we still do not fully understand the greatness of our God.
    I personally do pray directly to one of the persons at times. I give an example: For provision and protection, to the Father; for matters concerning my sins and forgiveness to the Son; and for understanding more about Jesus and the Father, as well as the gifts and fruit of the Spirit, to the Holy Spirit. But usually my prayers and supplications are mingled together.
    God bless.

  6. Greetings. I enjoyed reading your article. I too have noticed that as soon as I point one thing out about the Trinity, other things become hard to reconcile…because God is so Big. I did notice for me many years ago, when I was exposed to a demeaning view of Jesus in the Trinity, I searched and discovered that with an exaggerated view of each person in the Trinity, I pondered greatly what Jesus said in John 4 about worshiping the Father in Spirit and in Truth, and, then, Jesus said referring to the Father, that God was Spirit. I thought in an exploited view (as I was hearing) of the Persons…that if the Father was Spirit, was the Holy Spirit ANOTHER Spirit? I could not figure this out. Today I ponder on Jesus being the WORD in John 1:1. In today’s exploited view of the Persons of the Trinity: where does that leave the Father and the Holy Spirit, if they are not the Word (the Logos, the Wisdom, etc.)? Unless one sees them as ONE God. And yes, Jesus said that HE was in the Father—Is this why the Father could speak at the baptism of Jesus? As for me, I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. It is all so wonderful, for all though people demean my faith and tell me that my salvation is at stake because I don’t believe the Trinity like they do, I still stand on all Scripture, and I won’t deny, for example, Isaiah 9:6…everlasting Father. (And yes I know people who tell me that that is not what it means as well.) Furthermore, I do believe there must be just something about God in the Realm of Heaven and outside of creation and when He enters the Created realm. Sometimes with the Trinity concept, I think we might be dealing with that concept in more ways than we realize…perhaps.

  7. Michael.

    I would argue that you have a
    Spiritless” Christology. Christ could only do what he did, through the inspiration and the empowerment of the Spirit of God.

  8. “Maybe Bob, John, Nate, or Michael.” Probably not “Michael” since that is Jesus’ alias in another religion. ;)

  9. Craig,

    I agree with the last sentence. I argue that extensively in TTP. But that does not affect this post.

  10. I will argue that each of the members of the Trinity reveal each others nature. Eg, the Holy Spirits power revealed himself, but through his power, made Christ known.

  11. Deut 6:4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

    The mystery is glorious and pondering the perfect, pure love the Lord is, is incomprehensible this side glory

    As you say RE: greater, it is the Lord who says…
    John 10:29 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.
    John 14: 28 You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

    I love how Father, Son and Spirit love and glorify. I love considering this special honoring:
    Matt 12:31any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

    Thank you for your thoughts. May His thoughts be ever more our thoughts, as His teaches us by His Spirit.

    John 5:19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.

    John 15:26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me

  12. The title if your article is foolish. What you are referring to is administrative subordination or executive hierarchy, neither of which imply “greater ness” of one or more. It is an elementary mishandling of execution of office vs person and practically denies what you claim to believe.

    Your theology is observably unrefined and appears to be vetted by few which is likely why you are willing to assert such poor formulations.

  13. I think when Christ said the Father is greater than he was (John 14:28), he was simply talking about human vs. divine nature.

    When Jesus said that, he was reminding the disciples that they should rejoice at his death because it meant he would resume his *fully* divine nature and the work of redemption would be complete.

    Remember, a few verses earlier in John 14:9, he reminds Philip that seeing Jesus *is* seeing the Father.

    So I think Jesus was simply referring to the fact that while he was in his human nature (while still being fully God), he was nevertheless limited by space, hunger, weariness, fear, etc. Therefore, the Father, in his spirit nature who wasn’t limited in such a way, was *currently* greater than Jesus’ human form.

  14. It always quite amazes me that when Evangelical’s (generally) speak of the great Trinity of God, they are usually quite ignorant of the First Great Ecumenical Council of Nicaea I, 325! At least they simply don’t speak or use the creedal language very often, if ever. However, this was not true of our Reformers: Luther especially, indeed the Nicene “homoousios”. In Christ, he maintains, we are confronted by God Himself, for Christ is ‘very God’. And here came our Eastern Orthodox Brethren (the Council & Trinitarian Creed came off their ground!)

    And if (as HE Is) the Holy Spirit is GOD (Acts 5:3), then we can and should pray to Him! Though His “economy” is generally manifest in the Body of Christ, since Christ is now “Glorified”! (John 7: 39)

  15. Ouch “Missy M”! (#13) But you are right on the beam!

    *And this btw, brings forth almost modalistic statements like “craig bennett’s”.

    Btw, least we also forget, the Father is the “monarchy” of the Godhead! Even Augustine held this!

  16. Btw, if Michael would allow this, E.W. Bullinger’s little book: ‘Word Studies on the Holy Spirit’ (Kregel), is worth reading here. It is quite “Biblicist”, or uses the Greek word “pneuma” (spirit). As “Pneuma Hagion”.

  17. Missy,

    I would imagine that dealing with the arguments might be better than dealing with the title and making mere assertions. Could be wrong though as the titles of my post follow either a pattern of foolish pragmatism or wise tact. Not sure which. :-)

  18. Fr.

    You do know that functional subordinationalism is a standard part of the orthodox faith?

    The issue often comes whether this subordination is eternal or temporal, functional for redemption or functional for eternity. For that I would have to refer you to Bruce Ware and Giles (where the issue, unfortunately, is driven by the complementarian/egalitarian debate).

  19. @Michael: That’s why I mentioned the “monarchy” of the Father!

    And btw, I usually don’t like your post titles, but I bet ya knew that? ;) But I know you use them as literary aspects! :) Not being overly critical, just theological… I hope you know this? I am not another Greg, ouch.. did I just say that openly? I guess I did! ;) Truthfulness is better than a dagger in the back! I like Greg too! (Btw, I carried the old British Commando blade, in combat. Sorry, my military mind and past are never far away! ;)

  20. Just another note, but people should read and study Origen on the Trinity of God, his work here was very helpful in getting to the Church’s historical doctrine here, though of course always imbued with Platonism! We must beware too of many of Origen’s other speculations. But I myself count Origen a certain Church Father!

  21. Btw, I just remembered another radical book on the Trinity, Paul Molnar’s: Divine Freedom and the Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity, (T&T Clark, 2002).

  22. Greetings C Michael Patton,

    Adding to the mix:
    John 14:10-11

    10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

    Reconcile that with John 1:1

    Mind boggling

  23. Michael,

    I’m happy that our faith is named for “Christ” and would love if we were all more and more Christ-centered. I even love, like you, that both Father and Spirit want to bring glory to the Son. All that said, I don’t think this post was all that helpful. Too many western Christians are practically allergic to things of the Spirit, even to things that are practiced and taught in the NT and by our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world with good effect. The ignorance concerning matters of the Spirit, that Paul wanted expressly to vanquish in Corinth (at the Spirit’s leading?), is rampant in the Church in the West. This blog is routinely both informative and helpful. This post just doesn’t come across as such. I fear it will only help too many of us feel justified about continuing our neglect and ignorance of, yes, the third person of the Trinity.

  24. Dear T, I think all of us who are seeking comprehension of the Trinity go through times of processing new revelations of Bible Truth on this matter. But as far as the sacred Holy Spirit Who lives in Believers be neglected or ignored, I think it is highly unlikely. For it is by the Spirit within where one knows confidently if they are saved or not, for one.
    As for me, when I view too extremely the Three Persons, I find a lot of the Bible seems to become a mystery, but if I view God as One, I suddenly am not confused and none of this seems mysterious. Yet when I complicate my faith by all the theology words, I seem to see things in Scripture that brings more illumination and wonderment to the Greatness of God. However, oddly, perhaps that is my dilemma at this time in my life: I long for the simplicity in God that I once had, and to feel the peace of God that I know is waiting for me. I just need to grab hold of it.

  25. Michael, God cannot be greater or lesser than himself. We should not confuse Godly functions with Godly essence since each is an outgrowth of the other. God is Love and God functions as Love. God is in essence the same at all times. He is the Great I AM. Complete and without the dimensions of greater or lesser. Incarnationally, God in hypostatic union took on creative dimensions in the freedom of Love; however, the functionality of His Godly essence remained unaltered except in the freedom of His Love which is an ontological expression of His Will. Quite frankly, the entire concept of The Holy Spirit as lesser than Jesus is conceivable only through the use of analogy, and whether we like it or not metaphors only serve us anthropomorphically. Words are descriptive, not ontological essences. Epistemologically, we can only sense God, not in His essence but in the vibrancy of His nearness. God is cloaked in mystery and cognitively known in and through His grace. Jesus is the express image of that grace; however, that does not change His essence which we as Monotheistic Trinitarians believe is in essence an ontological sameness. God’s economic expressions are a temporal outgrowth of His eternal essence and do not shape His nature. The monotheistic nature of His ontological trinity of personhood does not allow us to logically dissect His eternal essence by assigning anthropomorphic dimensions to Him. May I suggest Joseph Palakeel’s fine book entitled, “The Use of Analogy in Theological Discourse: An Investigation in Ecumenical Perspective” as a starting point to catalyze a much deeper discussion on the subject?

  26. Father Robert. What was modalistic about my statement. Jesus himself said he could do nothing that he didn’t see the father doing.

  27. Michael said: “After all, even Christ said that the Father was ‘greater’ than he was (John 14:28).” In post #12above Anonymous had several good verses substantiating that thought. I like Austin’s observations in post#15, I think he is headed in the same direction as me.

    Remember this was said under the context of Jesus’ first advent mission. At that point in time he had not yet been glorified. To me the resurrection makes all the difference; for without the resurrection, it is all vanity and a waste of time.

    Jesus came as a man under the law, he was a slave to God’s will. Slaves are the very bottom of social status. He was not born as Lord, He was born as an obedient servant. Jesus performed and obeyed every law of Torah perfectly. But my point is that while he was alive the first time (before death) he had no authority of his own. His authority was 100% based on the fact that he was sent by Father. Eliazer went to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac in Gen 24. Eliazer was a slave, he had no power or authority, but he came with Abraham’s paperwork. Similarly, Jesus came as a slave bearing the credentials of God.

    After the resurrection, Jesus was glorified and became Lord of Lords, King of Kings. ALL authority in the cosmos was granted to him. After the resurrection Jesus becomes the boss. So today, I’m not sure that the Father is any longer “greater” than the Son.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not promoting adoptionism. Jesus was born God incarnate. After the resurrection he was still God incarnate. Same guy, same essence. But there is something going on with the authority status before the resurrection vrs afterwards. See here for more:

  28. Dear Jay Altieri, I looked at the link your provided above, and how do you reconcile John 2:19-21 when you say that Jesus did not raise Himself?

  29. I apologize up front for this post being so undeveloped, but I remember as I was reading the Institutes that Calvin mentioned something about Jesus doing the Father’s will *perfectly* and that was where his divine power came from.

    I think he was saying something to the effect that Jesus was indeed fully and completely human while on earth, but he was able to harness the divine nature by submitting so completely and perfectly to the Father’s will.

    I’ve tried to find the exact passage, but anybody who’s familiar with the Institutes knows that’s a daunting task. I’ll keep looking.

    In the meantime, maybe someone knows what I’m talking about and can better articulate. Thanks.

  30. I actually disagree with the Nicene Creed when it speaks of the eternal generation of the son. Many Evangelical NT scholars do as well as the word used for begotteness probably did not mean anything other than unique. I thin the framers did what they could with what they knew but, unfortunately, implied an ontological subordination of the son.

    I think I am good with eternal sonship, but not eternal begottenness. I especially don’t like the phrase eternal generation. It is not a matter of orthodoxy, just the age old disagreement in phraseology/grammar/terms.

    Calvin said it best when he said “I could care less about what words one uses so long as we believe that they are all God, but are not each other.”

  31. @Craig: I know where your taking this idea, from the place of Christ’s humanity alone.. that Jesus being “Spirit” filled and led, are merely his human connection or person, (Lk. 4: 1). But the Godhead, as it is in the eternal procession, the Father is the regal and the “monarchy” of the Godhead itself, and here the Son of God is seen in His eternal “generation” from the Father, and the Spirit in His eternal “procession”, from the Father. (John 15: 26)

    But, we must always remember too: that the Son of God, being the one Son, dual in nature, not dual in Person, both perfect God and perfect Man, in One Person! This is the Orthodox & Catholic Faith, as too the Faith of the Reformed/Reformational Churches!

  32. Btw “procession” of the Holy Spirit, ‘by the Father, but thru the Son.’ The latter is in Incarnational time, note “send to you”, refers to the work of the Holy Spirit in the plan of redemption, not His eternal relationships within the Godhead.

  33. @Michael: Indeed We will surely disagree here! As I noted the profound Origen, as well surely as many other Eastern Fathers, taught the Eternal Generation of the Son. And btw too Origen wrote deeply on the whole subject of the Generation by God, note biblically here in the Johannine text in Matt. 11: 27, I believe this text surely speaks of the Generational aspect of God, Father & Son…”All things have been handed over (lit. were given to Me) to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son will to reveal Him.”

    “You are my son, today I have begotten you” (Ps. 2: 7). This is spoken to him by God with whom all time is “today.” For, it seems to me, there is no evening or morning with God, instead, the “time” so to speak which is coextensive with uncreated and eternal life is this “today” in which the Son id begotten. Thus no beginning or day for this birth can be found.” (Origen)

    Btw, Origen wrote the first mystical commentary on the Song of Songs and at least touched on all the subsequent fundamental themes of bridal mysticism. We cannot forget here too John 1: 14 ; 18!

  34. Indeed one of Calvin’s greatest weaknesses is the doctrine of the Trinity! He seems to miss the great Athanasian Creed also? though there is some debate here.

  35. And btw, “Monogenes” means surely more than just unique. It is used five times in the NT, and all in the writings of the Apostle John! I like the Greek Text: “monogenes Theos”, ‘God the only-begotten”! (John 1: 18)

    And, I cannot do better than what old W.E. Vine has written for Monogenes…”Only Begotten”, in his Expository Dictionary. “We can only rightly understand the term “the only begotten” when used of the Son, in the sense of unoriginated releationship.” And surely this is one of an eternal relationship between the Father and the Son!

  36. Well said Michael, although I’m sure a number of Christians (charismatic?) would misunderstand what you’re saying and disagree. I must admit when I saw the title, I thought perhaps you had finally gone off the deep end ….. :-)

    I think there are some important practical lessons to draw out in differentiating ontological existence versus functional hierarchy – i.e., the equality but differing roles for husband and wife in marriage.

  37. #38 (typo) *”relationship” And btw, biblically “only begotten” is simply used to denote the relation of Christ to the Father, which is most certainly eternal! No need to make this hard, or to loose the great Creedal Tradition! Yes, the latter is very big for me! – Ecumenical Councils, especially the Nicene “homoousios”!

  38. ad fonte

    We need to go back to the sources. Of couse I agree with the spirit of the creed, but we must always evaluate it by Scripture. It is not infallible and we don’t venerate it. Though we respect it as we believe it is representative of the canon veritas. But, I do believe that the wording of the “eternal begottenness” is misleading and unfortunate. Therefore when I teach this creed, I do trace the synchronic wording in the scripture and show how it is wanting. Then I explain how (through a diachronic word study of the term the KJV called “begotten”) and show how it developed into a misunderstanding by Arius and how the fathers could have gotten this wrong. It is both fascinating and, hopefully, informative.

    But most importantly, I think the doctrine of eternal generation illustrates how tradition and language can and should be respected and seen as an interpretive tool, yet it is fallible.

  39. Sonship is susceptible to allegory—the word is therefore in relation to Jesus metaphorical catalogically as well as dialectically. The knowledge of His Divine Sonship is, in my opinion, in the God-world relationship can only be views as similarity in great dissimilarity. We must be vigilant to carefully distinguish between ontology and functionality. Jesus is no less God because of the incarnation. Submission is not a sign of rank, it is a function of true love. There are many “types of sons.” An only begotten sons; a created son; and adopted sons. All are sons in the truest sense of the word; however, only Christ is the unique son of God because of his begottenness and purpose.

  40. Jesus was the eternally begotten son, as a divine fiat within the realm of the purposes of God, but was only acutalized as such in a temporal sense through his incarnation. Thus, the Church Fathers referred to him as the eternally begotten son. God’s intentionality is always his potentiality. His will was accomplished in and through creation because he is God and has the potentiality to accomplish His divine purpose/s. I believe that a careful reading of the Church Fathers and Councils of reference will reveal that fundamentally we are on the same page here. :-)

  41. It is here that we Western and Reformed Christians can really learn from our Orthodox (EO) Brethren! Their work on this the Nicene Creed is simply grand! And if any Creed comes as close to being infallible-like, it is surely this One! The lose of the Eternal Generation of the Son, would also affect the Eternal Sonship of Christ itself, at least theologically. Again, its not what “we” might think or teach, but what is the history and the historical teaching of the Church! And this predates the Reformation itself! And certainly there is no misunderstanding here on the historical essence of the Council of Nicaea, with either the East and West.

    As I have noted before, one of the best works on Arius, is Rowan Williams book: Arius, Heresy & Tradition, (2002 Revised Edition, Eerdmans).


    This link is from the Spurgeon Archive, indeed the Nicene Creed is the most ecumenical creed in the Church! Note for us Anglicans it is one of the Anglican Articles of Religion, VIII. Of the Three Creeds. The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is called the Apostles Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture. – Amen!

  43. Sola scriptura and sola fide are sometime brothers that are hard to reconcile. Sometimes I feel like standing in the middle of the room and shouting, “semantics, semantics, semantics!” However, any way we slice the issue, it seems to me, we must do so with the heuristic principle that God’s essence (since He is eternal) always contains the potentiality of His intensions. And, with God, His intentions are certain because of that partiular potentiality.

  44. Sola scriptura and sola fide are sometime brothers that are hard to reconcile. Sometimes I feel like standing in the middle of the room and shouting, “semantics, semantics, semantics!” However, any way we slice the issue, it seems to me, we must do so with the heuristic principle that God’s essence since He is eternal, always contains the potentiality of His intensions. And, with God, His intentions are certain because of that partiular potentiality.

  45. The Reformers knew this, the tension between Grace and Works, but they knew too that GOD’s Sovereign Grace always comes forth in and from God Himself, thus the Reformers position of “alone”. And this does appear to be basic in St. Paul also, but too in the great Tension itself, Eph. 2:7-10. It surely does seem that God In Christ does have a basic “order” in the Salvation of God!

    “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love (11/2). (Westminster Assembly, Westminster Confession of Faith, 58.)

  46. Btw, one of the things I really like about Calvin, is that he sought to keep theology biblical, and thus somewhat simple, at least as best he could. However, it is also here perhaps that Calvin got into trouble somewhat with the doctrine of the Trinity, seeking to stay away from the classic creedal statements and definitions. But the Athanasian Creed is surely a thing of great beauty and truth!

  47. Theology is the queen of the sciences and philosophy is her handmaiden.

    Ranking personal priorities is one thing…attempting to rank members of the trinity is an entirely different thing!

    The Trinity is Eternal….
    Through out the Hebrew Scriptures, Who inhabited the holy of holies in tabernacle in the wilderness?
    Since Jesus left this earth, Who is inhabiting our bodies as His tabernacle in this wilderness we call the world?

    Since the Hebrew Scriptures point to Jesus Christ, don’t they also point to presence of the Holy Spirit?

    If only we would ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and to enlighten our understanding, we would find far more answers to our questions in the Hebrew Scriptures.

  48. Without the Holy Spirit, we have no connection to God.

    Jesus clearly taught his disciples that the Gentiles seek after hierarchy– do not let it be named among you. Based on His words to His disciples, why would He contradict Himself by setting Himself above the Holy Spirit?

    Trying to impose Aristotle’s hierarchy upon the Eternal Trinity is unscriptural.

  49. The Church has used the philosophy and logic of Aristotle before and after the Reformation, especially on the doctrine of the Trinity of God.

    We can see too the great influence that Aristotle had on the Reformers also. And this was certainly helpful generally. See Richard Muller’s book: The Unaccommodated Calvin, Studies in the Foundation of a Theological Tradition.

    This link too might be helpful…

    Aristotle’s Impact on
    the Doctrine of the Trinity


    Early Christian theologians, such as the Augustine, Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of
    Nyssa were involved in the ongoing struggle against heresy in the church. This
    battle against the false teachings that were invading Christianity was fought
    primarily by organizing the great Christian thinkers into councils and
    formulating Creeds which expressed the beliefs that true Christians would hold.
    Of particular difficulty to early theologians was the development of the
    doctrine of the Trinity. Not only were there numerous heresies concerning the
    Trinity and the nature of Christ circulating at the time, but while the
    scriptures speak of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, they do not
    specifically explain how this union of one God in three divine Persons actually
    works. Additionally, God’s transcendence, combined with the historical Jewish
    practice of shying away from speculation on the nature of God, left the early
    church with little foundation upon which to build a trinitarian theology.
    Therefore, early Christian thinkers adopted the philosophy of Aristotle as the
    framework through which they would explain the Divine Trinity. This essay will
    explain Aristotle’s Categories, discuss how they were applied to the definition
    of the Trinity, and briefly speculate on the benefits and dangers of this use
    of Aristotle’s Categories.

    The Categories

    Aristotle begins by categorizing objects into primary substances or accidents. Primary
    substances are individual…


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