Immanent and Economic Trinity When you think of God do you think of one divine entity or do you take into account the age old idea of the trinity? For all of time we have understood the three individual person’s in God, the Trinity, to be one in the same. The teaching of the Christian church tells us that God is three unique and separate people’s, but they are at the same time all one person in God. Now people have many different ways to picture or represent the idea of three people as one. The trial of history has come up with many different ideas and images to try and represent the trinity.
Like many things that have to do with the unknown nature of religion we put our mental limitations on our ideas. This is only natural because it is the only way we can comprehend things, and we only have earthly definitions and limits for things in the realm of this existence. The Economic Trinity is the doctrine concerning how the Father, son, and Holy Spirit relate to each other and the world. The word economic is used from the Greek oikonomikos, which means relating to arrangement of activities.
Each person has different roles within the Godhead and each has different roles in relationship to the world. One way of thinking about the economic Trinity is to think of the Father as creator, Son as redeemer, and Holy Spirit as sustainer. Subordinationism is the position consistently rejected by the ancient church that the Son and/or Spirit are ontologically subordinate to the Father. The Council of Nicaea rejected this position with respect to the Son by employing terms like homoousias of one being and begotten not made.
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The former refers to the shared substance of divinity between Father and Son, the fact that both are equally eternal and thus equal in glory and power. The latter refers to the fact that, while the Father is indeed the source of the Son’s generation, the Father does not create the Son. Only finite beings are created; the Son is generated, and the Spirit proceeds or is spirated. These terms are utterly unique with respect to the being of God If we only articulate the appropriations or functions within the trinitarian life of God, we can quickly land ourselves in heretical hot water, so to speak.
A doctrine of appropriations on its own quite easily leads to tritheism, in which there are three gods at work rather than one. Against this, we must take heed of the Augustinian axiom against tritheism: opera trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa, the external acts of the trinity are indivisible. This rule of trinitarian theology means that what each trinitarian person or mode of being does is inseparable from the other two persons. In other words, the actions of the Son in the world are also the actions of the Father and the Spirit; the same applies to the other trinitarian persons.
This Augustinian rule is related to the ancient doctrine of divine perichoresis or inter-penetration within God’s being. According to this doctrine, each person or mode of being participates in the other two persons or modes. The axiom of Augustine derives from this ontological point the functional or economic claim that every action of God is an act of all three together. To appropriate one action to one person never means that the other two are not equally involved in its execution.
If there were indeed an act belonging to only one person, the result would be tritheism, or at least ditheism. The Trinity is something that explains to us God and Strengthens our religious beliefs as well as our minds. It makes us think and can lead to many different ideas. We have to understand that the ideas we have are all explanations of unknown things. We have to use the knowledge we have and push onward and honor god with thought of Him. One day we will understand things in a way that is more clear to us, but until then we must keep trying to understand these things the best we can.
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