Theological Vision Guides

1. The Son Within the Trinity: Communicating God’s glory

Key Theme: The Son Within the Trinity

Our contemporary cultural moment has been profoundly impacted by modernity’s fact-value dichotomy, where valueless facts (associated with what we know) are perceived as objective – as what simply is – in contrast to factless values (associated with what we love) which are perceived as subjective. Where moral order is placed in the subjective realm, there is no foundation for a coherent, agreed upon value system. As society wrestles with this, truth is contested, and meaning appears to be evasive.

In Scripture, however, we encounter a God of truth and meaning, who creates and sustains the universe, weaving a moral order into the fabric of creation. Our understanding of the world around us, of ourselves, and of this moral order is rooted in what God is like and how he acts. 

The way we can know what God is like is by looking at Christ, who is the Son of God. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (Jn 1:18). This is also what we see when we look at the rest of the introduction to John’s Gospel (1:1-18), as well as, for example, Colossians 1:15-20 and Hebrews 1:1-4, which are two other high-profile, carefully structured passages that tie together who God is in eternity, and how he has revealed himself in creation and redemption.

The reason the Son of God can make God known is because he is God and has been eternally begotten by God. In other words, he has always been God’s “image” (Col 1:15), his “exact representation” and the radiance of his glory (Heb 1:3), his Word (Jn 1:1) or the “logos” in whom God has eternally communicated himself. And because the Son is the one in whom God has made himself known in eternity, he is also the one in whom God makes himself known in creation.

So what can we learn about God by looking at the Son? Scripture makes clear that the Son is one who is loved by the Father and that the Son is likewise in a permanent relationship of love toward him. In this relationship of love, the Father, Son and Spirit enjoy perfect mutual knowledge (Matt 11:27; 1 Cor 2:11). While God’s life in himself is to a certain extent beyond our understanding, this indicates that before the beginning, in the darkness of this mystery, God communicated himself in his Son, and in God, the categories of knowledge and love were wholly entwined.

The wonder of the gospel is that through the Son, we are drawn into the same relationship of love and knowledge that he himself enjoys. According to John’s Gospel, the Word’s work to make God known is secured as we become “children of God” (Jn 1:1, 12-13). At his victorious ascension he returns “to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (20:17). For him and for us, eternal life is to know God and his love (17:3, 23-24).

So in our consideration of the Son of God based on Jn 1:1-18, Col 1:15-20 and Heb 1:1-4 we have seen – albeit briefly – that knowledge and love are entwined in the Trinity and in God’s redemptive work.

Sandwiched between these is the last remaining theme which our texts integrate by means of the Son: God’s work in creation. Should we expect to find knowledge and love entwined here also? Put differently, modernity would view “the Trinity” and “redemption” as religious themes which inhabit their own thought world, to be handled separately from our scholarly engagement with the visible world around us. So when we study creation, we need to ask the question: is God still in view in some way?

Consultation Exercise

GAP is an ongoing project. For the sake of evangelical unity and clarity, this article has already been enriched by a broad consultation process and now that it is posted here we hope it will benefit from wider input from our readers. We would invite you to bring your constructive feedback by clicking the button below. We can’t promise to reply to every comment, but we will keep updating the text as the project progresses.

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