The Ontological and Economic Trinity
The Trinity is the Christian teaching that God consists of three simultaneous, eternal persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of the three persons are equal in their attributes and nature, but differ in how they relate to the world and to each other. When we say they are equal in nature and attributes, we are speaking of what is called the Ontological Trinity (ontology - study of being and essence). Each of the three persons in the Godhead is divine, has equal attributes (omniscience, omnipresence, holiness, etc.).
When we speak of how they relate to each other and the world, we are speaking of the Economic Trinity (economic - from the Greek oikonomikos, which means relating to arrangement of activities). To be overly simplistic, we could say that the Ontological Trinity deals with what God is and the Economic Trinity deals with what God does.
Within Christianity there is no debate on the Ontological Trinity. It is universally accepted as true that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each divine, holy, unchanging, etc.
The Economic Trinity
As stated above, the Economic Trinity deals with how the three persons in the Godhead relate to each other and the world. Each has different roles within the Godhead and each has different roles in relationship to the world (some roles overlap). The Father-and-Son is an inter-trinitarian relationship since it is eternal. The Father sent the Son (1 John 4:10), the Son came down from heaven not to do his own will but the will of the Father (John 6:38). For a single verse that shows differences in roles, see 1 Pet. 1:2, "According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood," You can see that the Father foreknows. The Son became man and sacrificed himself. The Holy Spirit sanctifies the church.
The Father sent the Son (John 6:44; 8:18). The Son came down from heaven not to do his own will (John 6:38). The Father gave the Son (John 3:16), who is the only begotten (John 3:16), to perform the redemptive work (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24). The Father and Son sent the Holy Spirit. The Father, who chose us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), predestined us (Eph. 1:5; Rom. 8:29), and gave the elect to the Son (John 6:39).
It was not the Son who sent the Father. The Father was not sent to do the will of the Son. The Son did not give the Father, nor was the Father called the only begotten. The Father did not perform the redemptive work. The Holy Spirit did not send the Father and Son. It is not said that the Son or the Holy Spirit chose us, predestined us, and gave us to the Father.
Furthermore, the Father calls Jesus the Son (John 9:35), not the other way around. Jesus is called the Son of Man (Matt. 24:27); the Father is not. Jesus is called the Son of God (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:35); the Father is not called the Son of God. Jesus will sit at the right hand of God (Mark 14:62; Acts 7:56); the Father does not sit at the right hand of the Son. The Father appointed the Son as heir of all things (Heb. 1:1), not the other way around. The Father has fixed the time of the restoring of the kingdom of Israel (Acts 1:7), the Son didn't. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to the Church (1 Cor. 12:8-11) and produces fruit (Gal. 5:22-23). These are not said of the Father and Son.
So, clearly we see differences in function and roles. The Father sends, directs, and predestines. The Son does the will of the Father, becomes flesh, and accomplishes redemption. The Holy Spirit indwells and sanctifies the Church.
Without these distinctions there can't be any distinctions between the persons of the Trinity, and if there are no distinctions, there is no Trinity.
These past few weeks have been certainly been eventful. I finally made it back to Charlotte, NC after spending three weeks with Matt in Idaho. I really appreciate the Slicks' hospitality as I bunked down at their house for three-quarters of a month. My time in Idaho was well spent as Matt and I started filming the Theology School and produced a number of YouTube videos and written articles.
I have spent this past week in Charlotte working on a couple of projects. First, I have been doing some street evangelism at a local college here in Charlotte, NC. Last week I went out witnessing with a friend of mine to that college and we talked with a group of about seven guys. We started our normal research survey approach. What I do is ask, “Hey guys, we are doing research on people’s religious beliefs. Do you mind if we ask you some questions?” Most people generally do not mind. I then proceed to get each of the people’s names. Then I ask my first question, “When people die, what do you think happens?” This is when I receive all kinds of responses. Some people think that you just die and that’s it, others think that you die and go to heaven or hell, and some people think that you get reincarnated.
With this group, we asked our normal questions and then shared the gospel with them. However, as we started explaining the gospel, several guys in the group began raising objections like, “Who made God?” or “How do you know Christianity is true?” I was able to politely respond to their objections and give answers to their satisfaction. I then proceeded to share the gospel with them. We continued to talk about their various questions for about an hour and I was naturally able to share the gospel message with them. I then gave each of them a solid gospel tract and invited them to trust Christ as their Savior. These college students really appreciated the polite and respectful responses that I was blessed to be able to give. Our conversation just confirmed to me the extreme importance of apologetics as a “wrecking ball” to clear away the objections that keep people from accepting the gospel.
Second, I also have been working on a number of research projects. I am working on a series of articles on the canon of Scripture. I want to answer questions like, “Why are there only 27 books in the New Testament” and “Do the Gnostic Gospels belong in the New Testament?” In these articles I plan on exploring the various criteria the early church used for discovering which books belonged in the New Testament. I also plan on writing an article or two on the question, “When was Jesus first worshipped as God?” I have been reading a fascinating book on the topic by Larry Hurtado called How on Earth Did Jesus become a God?
Third, I have been still helping Carlos Garbiras, our Spanish ministry leader, get his translated articles up on the CARM website. We now have a good portion of CARM’s most popular articles available in Spanish. See: http://www.carm.org/languages/spanish. We are planning to launch CARM’s Spanish ministry website within the next few weeks. Please pray that the Lord will use this ministry to mightily impact the Spanish community and beyond with the gospel.
Finally, Halloween is coming up this Saturday. I am going to give out candy to the “trick or treaters” that come by in my neighborhood. However, with the candy that I will be giving, I am also going to give gospel tracts with a comic book format. Last year I did the same thing, and a number of kids were eager to receive the tracts with their parent’s approval. I encourage you to reach out to the kids in your neighborhood during this “Satanic holiday.” Why hide indoors? Make an impact.
Love and Hate Mail
- Brothers In Christ, I have been following your ministry for about a year now and want to thank you for the invaluable information provided on your website. It has been a banquet to my spirit and a light in the dark and bleak world of over-tolerance, humanism, and relativism that we live in. In a world filled with uncertainty, I thank God for choosing you and your ministry to open the eyes and free the minds of countless souls chained to sectarian cults and false religions. Thanks for all you guys' hard work for the Lord as we know that, even as we endure the fire of persecution in his name, we shall never be forsaken (Psalm 37). With Love In Christ, Eddie
- Greetings, I have recently discovered your web site and can't wait to start handing out your Mormon and Jehovah Witnesses warning tracts! [See: http://www.carm.org/more-stuff/tracts/warning-tract] I'll keep you updated on my progress! Keep up the excellent resource work on your site. In His Service, Ron
- Hello, I had been struggling for the last few years about coming back into the faith of Jesus. I fell away for some time, and I had committed sins against God and His laws. I knew I had done these things, and every time I would start to get close to recommitting myself, Satan would show me something in the Word of God that would convince me that I had lost my salvation forever. I started thinking about the parable that Jesus taught about the Prodigal Son, and thinking that, that was about those of us who had either lost sight of what was important or whatever else the case may be. Anyway, so I read that parable in a free Windows desktop Bible application that I downloaded, but after reading it, Satan or one of his workers of iniquity started attacking me again, beating me down to the point that I felt like -- "what's the use". I decided to do a search in Google to see if I could find something that might help me. The search phrase I entered was the following: “parable of the prodigal son for lost Christians?”That search led me to your web page located here: http://www.carm.org/christianity/parables/ prodigal-son-luke-151-2-11-32. I just wanted to let you know that for whatever reason, the way you have that page laid out there completely convinced me that God was calling me back home, and with true repentance, I would be accepted once again. I prayed a simple prayer admitting that I had sinned against our Father and His Commandments, apologized, and asked Jesus to start leading the way in my life again, and that I will follow wherever He may ask me to go. I am writing this email to you for a couple of reasons.... First, is to say thank you for doing the work of God, putting in the effort into creating these web pages (the pages on your website), because those words led me back to our Father! I wanted whoever was responsible for creating that web page ( http://www.carm.org/christianity/parables/prodigal-son-luke-151-2-11-32) to know that it led a fallen believer back into the beautiful place of warmth and peace, and that may not have been possible had this person not followed Fathers leading in doing this. Thank You! And finally, I am making it known right now to another individual, that I have returned to be one of Jesus disciples, so am confessing (actually speaking what I've typed out loud) that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ), the one true God, and believe in my heart that God raised Him (Jesus) from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion. Thank you so much for your efforts, I know Father is very happy that you're doing these things, as am I. :) Thank You! May God bless you and your efforts, Patrick
- Matthew, your so stubborn and defiant, it appears to me in your questions that “ do I [meaning you] need to belong to the true church” as this wouldn’t be an appropriate statement. How many times did the Lord inspire St Paul to say let there be no division’s amongst yourselves. Who is doing the dividing? And do you think this is fine? What is wrong with you Matthew to think that it’s Ok to be part of a church that doesn’t teach the truth. The TRUTH will set you free, if only you believe there is only ONE TRUTH, Jesus told Peter “ and the gates of hell will not prevail against HIS Church, which means HIS Church is the ONE TRUTH. And since Baptist don’t believe in Catholic teaching means Baptist believe in only themselves. You sound like your all about yourself Matthew, you’re the wolf dressed in sheep clothing, you may be able to deceive the other innocent sheep but I see right through you. Stop your madness, and come home to the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. I pray thee, Jesus Amen… Stephen
- Youra slanderer in the case where you tallk about people like they are brain washed. You're wrong about a bunch of your statements (slanders) against Jehovah's Witnesses. Don't post a whole video on something you haveno clue or insight aboout. Email me back please withmore than just one word. Thank you buddy
- I find your information on mormonism completely WRONG! You need to check your sources before you post things that aren't true on your website! Sincerely, A mormon.
- before bashing arnold murray read the bible for yourself instead of having someone else do your work you slacker. Katrina
- Christian Apologetics & RESEARCH Ministry? hahahahaha that's hilarious....really? you call this research? this is almost all wrong! and you have taken many quotes & scriptures out of context. Rename your website "Ignorant Anti-Christian Ministry Attempt (without correct research)" ...because then, you wouldn't be misleading people.
- well...lets say that Joseph smith contradicted the bible...but lets not forget that even the apostles themselves failed before god...they all betrayed jesus in there own way..who are we to say that god cant appear to one of his his children on earth again...because like you, i wanted to doubt..until i realized one important godly principle.... no man...can write the book of mormon...no good man..would write such a true doctrine and no evil man would even have the power to even write such a doctrine...sooo its ether its all true..or its all wrong...its either all true or all wrong...no evil man could write such a doctrine without god....and no good man would have power to write such a doctrine or he would turn into stuble...i highly doubth that a man would take all tyhe punishment of earth for gods sake like joseph smith did..he is ruly god's prophet...thou shall know at the last day Skyler