The Father Turns His Face Away?

Pordenone’s Holy Trinity

It’s that time of year again when we find people debating the Cry of Dereliction online. Just what did Jesus mean when he quoted Psalm 22 from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matt has written effectively in this space about the theological and canonical parameters for understanding this text. The trinitarian, Christological, and hermeneutical stakes have been thoroughly rehearsed.

But one aspect of the debate that also deserves attention is related to the doctrine of atonement itself. What I mean is the assumption, often articulated only in underdeveloped ways, that somehow the Father cannot “look upon sin” and so must “turn his face away” from the Son. It is certainly true that God is “of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Hab. 1:13). But the context of this teaching is a complaint from Habakkuk that God might countenance evil people without judging them. It does not mean (and cannot mean theologically) that God somehow delimits or cordons off his omnipresence from the presence of sin. After all, “where shall I flee from your presence?” Even if I “make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Psalm 139:7, 8). Further, this is where we get all of the trinitarian and Christological errors: Is the Father alone so holy that he cannot look upon sin? Isn’t the Son a divine person too? Even if you make a reduplicative move that it is the Son in his humanity who is abandoned, it is still a divine person who is dying and making atonement on the cross. Saying that the cross demands that God turn away from Jesus ends up proving too much (or too little, depending on which way you look at it).

Which brings me to the point about atonement: the “Father turns his face away” approach to the cry of dereliction operates with a sub-biblical doctrine of atonement. The idea that God’s holiness requires that he remove himself from the presence of sin runs in the opposite direction of the biblical teaching on atonement. In his atoning mercy, it not that God turns his face away from sin; it’s that sin, when it comes into contact with the divinity, is thus cleansed and expiated. Consider the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). The cleansing of Israel’s guilt takes place in the burning center of God’s manifest presence among them: in the Holy of Holies. The blood of the sin-bearing victim, sprinkled on the mercy seat where God dwells between the cherubim, purifies the people from their sin. When sin comes into contact with God’s presence, he is not contaminated by it; it is cleansed by him. Only in this way can sin then be removed from the people, symbolized in the scape goat driven into the wilderness.

So, God’s presence with (and in and as) Jesus is not removed once the sins of the world are laid upon him. That would forestall the whole process. It is precisely because Jesus is a divine person, in unbroken communion with his Father (John 16:32) and their shared Spirit (Heb. 9:14), that his death can provide atonement for sin. As the late Joseph Ratzinger put it, “In his self-offering on the Cross, Jesus, as it were, brings all the sin of the world deep within the love of God and wipes it away.”

Asbury Aflame: An Update

The revival continues at Asbury. But some are doubting. Social media skeptics abound. The questions range from the legitimate (what is the biblical and theological content of what’s going on?) to the nakedly cynical (why are there so many white people in these photos? why is there so much emotional singing?). But the reports seem pretty overwhelming at this point: something real and Christ-exalting is happening at Asbury.

Listen to this testimony from a visitor to the revival services, Robert Cunningham, director of Christ for Kentucky and a Presbyterian minister:

Lay down your doubts and believe. Open yourself to revival. A powerful exhortation.

Again, some initial questions are legitimate, but what does it say about us that we are so quick to be skeptical? We would rather remain cynical than risk looking naive. What does that choice say about us? Isn’t it better to believe and hope all things and risk the possibility of a later retraction or correction than to remain judgmentally aloof?

Something similar could be asked about the responses to the “He Gets Us” campaign and the commercials that aired during the Super Bowl last night. To be sure, there is a critique to be made of this ad campaign. Are all of these analogies between Christ and us really apt? What is the underlying theology? Why so much money devoted to this? All legitimate questions to ask. But that’s not really my point. The more revealing question is why are people this agitated by it? I have a friend who likes to say “mirrors before windows.” Before you focus on someone else, look at yourself first. Yes, there may be serious problems with the “He Gets Us” campaign, but why am I so bothered by it? It is not a little ironic that people got so angry over an ad that emphasized Jesus’ love for those who are the objects of our anger! Maybe you don’t like the message behind the ads. Okay. You can still use the conversations it raises to tell people about the biblical Jesus and his life-giving gospel.

Maybe these things are related. Maybe God is up to something in American Christianity. Maybe there are fresh openings for renewal popping up all around us. Maybe if we had eyes to see and hearts to pray, we would see more. Discernment is still needed. Every revival in history has had to distinguish between the true and the false. But, for my part, tenderhearted hope is a better posture than calculated coldness.

I don’t know about you, but I want revival on my campus! I want revival in my life and family and church. I want to see “each soul be rekindled with fire from above.” Don’t you?

UPDATE: Robert Cunningham has deleted the thread above. The gist of the thread was that this PCA minister witnessed an authentic revival focused on Jesus, Scripture, and prayer.

Revival at Asbury

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The fresh wind of revival seems to be blowing at Asbury University. Word started spreading on social media Wednesday that students simply didn’t want to leave the chapel service after it ended. I’m not on social media anymore, but I had several friends send me links to what was happening. Hundreds of students stayed or came back throughout the day to pray and sing and recite Scripture. And it kept going. Tom McCall, chair of theology at Asbury Seminary, gives an account:

Winfield Bevins, director of church planting at the seminary, shares a taste:

Testimonies continue to pour in on Twitter and Facebook. For the latest, just search for #asburyrevival.

Tom’s thread above captures my own sentiments well. I am the inheritor of a strongly revivalist tradition of Alabama Baptist piety, and I appreciate so much of the spirituality that gave birth to my own faith. But I see the weaknesses in it as well: the dangers of manipulation, an overemphasis on experience, and sometimes a neglect of more regular patterns of spirituality–gospel-patterned liturgies, regular observance of the ordinances, and worship and preaching that is oriented toward the edification of the body, not just the conversion of the lost. But for those of us who critique revivalism, we must be careful not to foreclose the possibility of true revival. The Spirit appears to be blowing where it listeth at Asbury, an institution rooted in Wesleyan spirituality. And we all need to be paying attention. And praying.

The reason why these early reports of revival are so moving, I think, is that we all have grown so cold and cynical toward the possibility of an authentic experience of the Spirit, and we don’t even realize it. Or else we don’t fully appreciate it. The Christian West is dying, withering, fracturing. Out of an apparent sense of desperation, many professing Christians are becoming more radical and divisive, drawing tighter and tighter circles of theological (and, more often, political) narrowness. Others are grasping for something, anything, to recover an authentic faith. Often we are searching for something historical, something back behind our current malaise: medieval scholasticism, Reformation- and post-Reformation-era political theology, Calvinism, etc. There is, no doubt, some utility in these arenas of retrieval. I’m interested in them as well. But for those of us whose spiritual patrimony lies, at least in part, in the Anglo-American revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, perhaps we have neglected something important. Maybe there is still some fire left in the embers of evangelical piety. God grant it.

The Three Holy Hierarchs

In the Eastern calendar, today is the commemoration of the so-called Three Holy Hierarchs: Basil “the Great” of Caesarea (330-79), Gregory “the Theologian” of Nazianzus (329-90), and John Chrysostom, “the Golden-Mouthed,” the bishop of Constantinople (347-407). Many of us are more familiar with the grouping of Basil and Gregory with Basil’s younger brother Gregory of Nyssa, the trio known as the Cappadocian Fathers. But the grouping of Basil and Nazianzen with John Chryostom is rooted in an eleventh-century debate over which of the three was the greatest theologian, a debate allegedly resolved by a vision of the three to John the Bishop of Euchaita in which they declared their unity and equality.

All three were defenders of Nicene orthodoxy and were committed churchmen (as was Gregory of Nyssa). All three were men of holiness and prayer. All three were supported by close Christian friends and family members, many of whom are also canonized in the Eastern tradition (especially noteworthy is Basil and Nyssen’s sister Macrina, a profound theological and spiritual influence on them both). But each of the three had his own unique gifting and personality, and each has his own lesson for today’s church.

Basil the pastor underscores the importance of the church. He left a monastic life to pursue a public ministry in defense of the divinity of Christ. He soon conscripted his reluctant friend Gregory to the same task.

Gregory the theologian teaches us the value the intellectual life. He is given the title “the Theologian” for a reason. Among his other writings, Gregory’s Five Theological Orations, preached to a small band of orthodox Christians while the see of Constantinople was in the hands of the heterodox, remain a classic defense of the doctrine of the Trinity.

John the preacher reminds us of the power of proclaiming the Word of God. He was given the moniker “Golden-Mouthed” because of his remarkable gifts of oratory. Few in church history have moved the church more powerfully to obey all that Jesus demands in Holy Scripture.

Men like these are an inspiration to the whole church of Jesus Christ. One need not be Orthodox or Roman Catholic to find great value in the lives of the saints. Yes, we Protestants understand that all Christians are already saints through faith in Jesus Christ. No, we Baptists will not be found asking the saints in heaven to intercede for us. But we confess belief in the communion of saints just the same. We too believe that all Christians share life together in the one body of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. We too are the inheritors of the whole history of the church. All things are ours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or Basil or Gregory or John. And we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s (1 Cor. 3:22-23).

Considering the lives of the saints who have gone before us serves as inspiration to our own faith and life. Growth in Christian virtue takes place, by the grace of God, through habits inspired by exemplars. So, let us remember faithful pastors, theologians, and preachers like the Three Holy Hierarchs. And let us imitate their faith as they imitated our one Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:7; 1 Cor. 11:1).

A Few of My Favorite Things: 2022 Edition

The last couple of years I have compiled a list of my favorite book, album, and movie from those years. Here are my 2020 and 2021 picks. It’s a fun way to chronicle what I was especially moved by in a given year. My pick for the book is not necessarily time-bound. In other words, I pick from the books I read this year, not necessarily books that were published this year. But for the album and movie, I try to pick one that was actually released during the year.

Favorite Book

Biblical Reasoning: Christological and Trinitarian Rules for Exegesis by R. B. Jamieson and Tyler R. Wittman

What is the proper relationship between Scripture and Doctrine? How are we to conceive of the precise relationship between biblical exegesis and Christian dogmatics? For several decades, theologians and biblical scholars alike have explored what it would mean to reintegrate these crucial disciplines. But attempts at a reunion have sometimes been characterized by a lack of cohesion, rigor, and concrete specificity. From a certain perspective, Biblical Reasoning serves as a kind of remedy to these deficiencies. Exploring seven “principles” and ten “rules” for exegesis, the book shows how the relationship between exegetical reasoning and dogmatic reasoning is reciprocal and reinforcing, even if asymmetrical. Drawing on the seminal work of the late John Webster (but also ranging widely in the fathers, the medieval doctors, the Reformers, the post-Reformation scholastics, and modern scholarship as well), Biblical Reasoning has rightly been called a “book of generational significance” and “a master class in how to read the Bible directly and accurately.”  I hope this book gets a wide and serious reading.

Honorable Mention: Jesus and the God of Classical Theism by Steve Duby

Favorite Movie

Everything Everywhere All at Once, written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

A trippy and bizarre multiverse fantasy sets the stage for a moving dramedy about an immigrant family. It made me laugh and cry…in the theater. It skirted right up to the line of nihilism and backed off, rediscovering family as our primal meaning-maker as human beings.

Honorable Mention: Top Gun: Maverick

Favorite Album

American Heartbreak by Zach Bryan

Zach Bryan has been building a cult following for years, with homemade Youtube videos he made moonlighting from his former day job in the United States Navy. He’s one of those rare singers that punches you in the gut from the first listen. So by the time Bryan released his first major record label album this summer it felt a bit like letting a bucking bronco out of the shoot. The production is clean but doesn’t overwhelm the rawness and authenticity of Bryan’s voice. It’s a sprawling and epic production (34 tracks long!) that mixes Red Dirt country with a good dose of folk songwriting reminiscent of Bryan’s fellow-Oklahoman Woody Guthrie. Having moved to Oklahoma this summer, I’ve seen the skies that inspired a track like “Something in the Orange.” This album is an opus from the cutting edge of the authentic country music revival we have been witnessing in recent years.

Honorable mention: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You by Big Thief

Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI (1927-2022)

The world lost a theological and spiritual giant today. It’s not too much to say that with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Benedict XVI this year, the West lost something of itself. The West has lost a living connection to another world, the world of its Christian patrimony.

I have an obituary and reflection on Benedict’s life that will be published over at Mere Orthodoxy, I believe on Monday. In the meantime, I want to point you to a fascinating conversation between then Cardinal Ratzinger and the late Johann Christoph Arnold, elder of the Bruderhof Communities. The conversation launches from a discussion of Anabaptist martyrs who died at the hands of Catholic authorities. Ratzinger’s comments on the danger of relying on worldly power to do the Lord’s work seem especially relevant in our day:

What is truly moving in these stories is the depth of faith [of these men], their being deeply anchored in our Lord Jesus Christ, and their joy in this fact, a joy that is stronger than death. We are distressed, of course, by the fact that the church was so closely linked with the powers of the world that she was able to deliver other Christians to be executed because of their beliefs. This should be a deep challenge to us, how much we all need to repent again and again, and how much the church must renounce worldly principles and standards in order to accept the truth as the only standard, to look to Christ, not to torture others but to go the way of witnessing ourselves, a way that the world will always oppose, a way that will always lead to some form of martyrdom. I believe it is very important for us not to adopt worldly standards but to be ready to take upon ourselves the opposition of the world and to learn that his truth is expressed above all in love and forgiveness, and that this is truth’s most trustworthy sign. I believe this is the point at which we all have to learn anew, the only point through which he can truly lead us together.

A joy that is stronger than death. Truth expressed in love. Looking to Christ. These are some of the lessons the whole church learned from the late pope.

Christmas in Darkness

Rembrandt, The Stoning of Saint Stephen (1625)

Today, December 26, is the Feast of Saint Stephen the Protomartyr. It is always striking to me that the liturgical calendar follows up the Feast of Nativity with commemorations of St Stephen, who was stoned for his witness to the Risen Christ (December 26), of St John the Evangelist, who died in exile (December 27), and of the Holy Innocents, who were slaughtered by King Herod (December 28). The First Advent leans forward to the Second.

For all of its joy and mirth and light, Christmas doesn’t actually bring an end to our darkness. No one needs to tell us this. We know it experientially. We wake up on December 26 (or on January 6, when Christmastide gives way to Epiphany) with all of the same problems. The diagnosis doesn’t miraculously change. The devilish temptations don’t magically disappear. The dead remain painfully cold in their graves.

Christmas signals the end of the old order of sin, suffering, and death. But, taken in isolation, it doesn’t actually bring it to pass. The mystery of Christ’s nativity is connected like a chain to the subsequent mysteries of his suffering, crucifixion, and death. Christ’s birth sets him on a journey that will end in the cruel death of the cross. The death of the Holy Innocents (and then, later in the gospel, the beheading of John the Baptist) foreshadows this.

But even the crucifixion, taken in isolation, doesn’t shatter the darkness. It too, is tethered to the further mysteries of Christ’s descent, resurrection, and ascent to the Father’s right hand. But, painfully, even these glorious mysteries, as we well know, have not brought an end to our suffering. Eastertide bears its own burdens as well.

And so we come to St Stephen, the Spirit-filled deacon (Acts 6:5), wonderworker (Acts 6:8) and exegete of redemptive history (Acts 7). Even he, on this side of Christ’s ascension, is not spared martyrdom.

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

And herein we see the light breaking through the darkness that even the ascension does not remove from our experience: the Risen Lord Jesus, the divine-human Son of Man, temporarily suspends his session–his having sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high–and stands in honor of his first martyr. Daniel’s promise of the Son of Man coming in the clouds is given a kind of preview, at least in its first moment, at the protomartyr’s death.

Soon, this same Jesus will stand once again from his throne and return to earth to make all things new. And so, the chain will be complete: the whole mystery of Christ–his incarnation, life, death, burial, descent, resurrection, ascension, session–will be brought to a climactic conclusion in his Second Advent to judge the quick and the dead, to defeat all his and our enemies, and to usher in a new creation. And the denouement: a world of perpetual light (Revelation 22:5).

A Divine Person Has Been Born

Artwork by Mackenzie Kissell

This Advent, I have been reading a book on the Christology of the great medieval Franciscan theologian, St. Bonaventure. The Seraphic Doctor summarizes the mystery of the incarnation—which results in the union of two natures in the one hypostasis, or person, of the Son—like this: The hypostatic union “consists in nothing other than the fact that a divine person who, from eternity, has been a hypostasis of the divine nature becomes the hypostasis of a human nature in time.”

It is astounding to consider: a divine person, the Second Person of the Godhead, the eternally begotten Son of the Father, is the very same person who was born to a poor, Jewish virgin two-thousand years ago. He has made himself accessible to us; indeed, he has made himself one of us. The One who was from the beginning has made himself hearable, visible, and touchable (1 John 1:1). Whatever else we may be going through this year, our lives have been definitely qualified by this fundamental fact in the history of the cosmos: God has come near. Though it strains credulity, a divine person has been born.

May this truth cheer you this holiday season.

Advent and the End of Racial Division

Racism is persistent. It comes in a variety of forms, some more veiled and incipient, others more explicit and fully formed. Many seem to espouse a myth of progress that envisions a gradual waning of all racialized ideologies. But recent years (and months and days) have given the lie to that myth. The truth is that only the redeeming work of the incarnate Christ can finally “bid our sad divisions cease.”

The breaking down of the dividing wall of hostility is one of the central messages of Advent, indeed of the entirety of the “Winter Pascha,” to use Alexander Schmemann’s memorable phrase to describe the liturgical cycle of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. In Advent, we long for the appearing of the Prince of Peace. In Christmastide, we celebrate his nativity, which is good news of great joy for all peoples. And in Epiphany, we herald his manifestation as King of the nations, signaled by the visit of the magi, bearing gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

This last mystery, the visit of the magi, has been received by the church with a special connection to Christ’s universal work. As Joseph Ratzinger has noted, the Christian tradition developed the notion that the magi are kings hailing from all three known continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe. So, says Ratzinger, “the black king is part and parcel of this: in the kingdom of Jesus Christ there are no distinctions of race and origin. In him and through him, humanity is united, yet without losing any of the richness of variety.”

In this way, Christ as the Last Adam is simply restoring the inherent unity of the human race that is obscured and undermined by human sin. In another place, Ratzinger reflects on the unity of man in Adam, the man from the dust:

Thus the unity of the whole human race becomes immediately apparent: We are all from only one earth. There are not different kinds of “blood and soil,” to use a Nazi slogan. There are not fundamentally different kinds of human beings, as the myths of numerous religions used to say and as some worldviews of our own day also assert. There are not different categories and races in which human beings are valued differently. We are all one humanity, formed from God’s one earth. It is precisely this thought that is at the very heart of the creation account and of the whole Bible. In the face of all human division and human arrogance, whereby one person sets himself or herself over and against another, humanity is declared to be one creation of God from his one earth. What is said at the beginning is then repeated after the Flood: in the great genealogy of Genesis 10 the same thought reappears — namely, that there is only one humanity in the many human beings. The Bible says a decisive “No” to all racism and to every human division.

“Blood and soil” ideologies seem to be on the rise again in some quarters. But the church of the universal Savior–the people whose identity is definitively marked by Advent, the Nativity, and the Epiphany–of all people should not be deceived by them. The church is the sign of a coming kingdom of peace in which the Desire of the nations will “bind in one the hearts of all mankind.”

The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity: A Summary

In a recently published collection of essays on the Trinity, Scott Swain discusses B.B. Warfield’s treatment of the doctrine of the Trinity, with particular attention to Warfield’s rejection of the language of “eternal generation.” That’s a hugely interesting and important topic, but it’s not the subject of this post per se. Instead, I want to focus on the broader point that Swain makes about Warfield’s approach, namely, that it’s a bit too pared down, that part of the reason why Warfield is ambivalent about eternal generation is that his summary of the Trinity does not include adequate reflection on what makes the divine persons distinct from another.

Warfield summarizes the biblical teaching on the Trinity in a kind of three-step process. Swain explains:

Warfield summarizes the main lines of biblical teaching on the Trinity in three points: (1) “there is but one God,” (2) “the Father and the Son and the Spirit is each God,” and (3) “the Father and the Son and the Spirit is each a distinct person.” “When we have said these three things,” [Warfield] insists, “we have enunciated the doctrine of the Trinity in its completeness.” (p. 33).

As Swain points out, this is a fairly standard way of summarizing the Bible’s teaching on the Trinity among evangelicals. It’s even given pictorial representation in the widely used image above. But it leaves unexplained just what makes the Father, Son, and Spirit “each a distinct person.” It’s not that the summary is unhelpful or untrue, but it’s claim to “completeness” is suspect.

So, what would it look like to supplement Warfield’s approach with a bit fuller summary, but one that can still justifiably be considered a summary and not an attempt to be exhaustive? How would you summarize the biblical teaching on the doctrine of the Trinity? For what it’s worth, here’s my shot (notice that the first three points track with Warfield’s):

  1. God is one. The New Testament (Mark 12:29; 1 Cor. 8:4, 6; 1 Tim. 2:5), no less than the Old Testament (Deut. 6:4; Exod. 20:1-2; Isa. 45:6), affirms that there is only one God. While there may be other spiritual beings (angels, demons, and human souls), there is—and can only be—one transcendent and immanent Creator and Lord of heaven and earth.
  2. Each of the persons is divine. Once the first person, the Father, is distinguished in the New Testament, his deity is assumed throughout. The deity of the Son is demonstrated by the fact that the attributes, actions, names, titles, and worship of God are ascribed to him. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is named as a distinct person alongside the Father and Son (e.g., Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 13:14) and his deity is shown by his divine attributes and actions.
  3. The persons are really distinct from one another. The three are not simply successive manifestations or modes of revelation to humanity. They are simultaneously existing persons with real relations to one another (think of Jesus’ baptism, Matt. 3:13-17). And these distinctions are not merely ad hoc arrangements in redemptive history but mark out real distinctions in eternity. These distinctions are made evident by the personal names given to each of the three in Scripture: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is eternally the Father of the Son; the Son is eternally the Son of the Father; and the Holy Spirit is eternally the one “spirated,” or breathed out, by the Father and Son. The three relate to one another and love one another in the eternal glory of God’s own life (John 17:5)
  4. Because God is one, he acts as one. The three divine persons act as one in redemptive history.  All of the actions of God in the world—creation, providence, redemption, and judgment—are attributed to each. They are not three separate beings doing three separate but harmonious things. They each act in the others’ actions. The Holy Trinity acts in an inseparable and indivisible manner. To pick just one example, consider the act of creation. The Father creates through his Word (John 1:1-3; cf. Gen. 1:3) and Spirit (Gen. 1:2).
  5. Some divine attributes or actions are appropriated to particular divine persons, but not in such a way as to exclude the others. So, for example, we might say that the Father is our creator, the Son is our redeemer, and the Spirit is our sanctifier. But because of the previous point (that God acts in an indivisible way in all of his actions), this appropriation is only a manner of speaking. All three persons are the creator, redeemer, and sanctifier. The appropriation of certain attributes to certain divine persons only serves to highlight their unique personal identity. For example, the Son is referred to as the Word or Wisdom of God in Scripture, not because he alone possesses the divine attribute of wisdom, but because this name highlights his unique personal property of being from the Father, as a word proceeds from a mind.
  6. Still, each person participates in the indivisible action of God in a manner that is appropriate to his personal identity. In any act of the Triune God in the world, there is only one action. But there are three modes of action corresponding to the three persons active within, so to speak, that one action. Simply put, the Father acts as Father in the inseparable action of the Trinity, the Son as Son, and the Spirit as Spirit. The early church Fathers, following the New Testament pattern, often spoke of these modes of action by means of distinct prepositions: the action of God comes from the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit (see, for example, 1 Cor. 8:6). And, of course, because the Son alone became incarnate as a human, the actions that he carries out humanly are exclusive of the Father and Son. The point here is that everything that God does divinely, he does as Father, Son, and Spirit—in essentially indivisible but personally differentiated action.