Fred Sanders on the Holy Spirit, the Trinity in Salvation, and Retrieval

This episode is a conversation with Dr. Fred Sanders of Biola University. We discuss the names for the Holy Spirit in Scripture (2:16), the seeming “silence” of the Spirit in major moments in the biblical narrative (5:17), the Spirit in the OT (15:40), the Trinity in salvation (20:34), theological retrieval (24:30), the Trinity and theological education (31:30, and more. Buy Fred’s books.

Church Grammar is presented by B&H Academic and the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl. Producer: Katie Larson.

Brandon D. Smith is Assistant Professor of Theology & New Testament at Cedarville University, Editorial Director for the Center for Baptist Renewal, and writes things. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandon_d_smith.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.

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Some Serious Questions About The Trinity

I posted these on Twitter earlier, but I think I’ll leave them here in a more permanent place.

We all need to ask some very serious questions at this point, it appears (although there are 2000 years of work addressing these already…).

  1. Are we now willing, given ERAS/EFS/ESS, to assert three wills in the Godhead? How does “submission and authority” occur in the life of God if not via distinct wills, one for each person?
  2. If yes to #1, are we now willing to either a) deny inseparable operations or b) so alter it that it is a matter of unity in agreement, not unity in action?
  3. If yes to #1, are we willing to so alter the doctrine of God that unity of essence does not equal unity of will?
  4. If yes to #1, are we now willing to posit monothelitism, the Apollinarian position that posits that the Son’s will in Garden is his divine will struggling  with and ultimatley submitting to the Father’s divine will?
  5. If yes to #4, are we willing to assert not only that there are three wills in Godhead but that, in the Garden, they are struggling with one another?

These questions are not merely speculative, only for theo-nerds, and application-less for the layperson. These questions are *vital.* For example, regarding the doctrine of salvation: if we assert monothelitism (Christ’s incarnate will is only his divine will) instead of dyothelitism (the incarnate Christ has two wills, human & divine) we lose the clear connection between Christ’s redemptive obedience and his healing of our *human* wills, returning them to obedience.

Think of your own heart: do you obey readily? Not in your flesh you don’t. Traditional Trinitarian and Christological doctrine says there is one will in the Godhead, two in Christ – human and divine. The *human* will of Jesus obeys *for us* and thereby redeems our own wills. You can obey because Christ, the second Adam, obeyed *in his humanity by his human will* and now restores your *human* will through his Spirit.

Another applicational point – when you contemplate God, who are you contemplating? An accurate portrait or a distortion? If God has one will, but you posit three, you are not contemplating God rightly. Vice versa, if God has three wills, but I posit one, I am not contemplating God rightly. That is no laughing matter, nor is it merely a third order question.

Let’s be very clear about what’s at stake in this debate – a right understanding of Christ’s salvific work and a right contemplation of God.