IV. THIS TRI-PERSONALITY IS NOT TRI-THEISM; FOR,
WHILE THERE ARE THREE PERSONS, THERE IS BUT ONE ESSENCE.
(a) The term ?person? only approximately represents the truth. Although this word more nearly than any other single word expresses the conception which the Scriptures give us of the relation between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it is not itself used in this connection in Scripture and we employ it in a qualified sense, not in the ordinary sense in which we apply the word ?person? to Peter, Paul, and John.
The word ?person? is only the imperfect and inadequate expression of a fact that transcends our experience and comprehension. Bunyan: ?My dark and cloudy words, they do but hold the truth, as cabinets encase the gold.? Three Gods, limiting each other, would deprive each other of Deity. While we show that the persons articulate the unity, it is equally important to remember that the persons are limited by the unity. With us personality implies entire separation from all others ? distinct individuality. But in the one God there can be no such separation. The personal distinctions in him must be such as are consistent with essential unity. This is the merit of the statement in the Symbolum Quicumque (or Athanasian Creed, wrongly so called): ?The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Ghost is God; and yet there are not three Gods but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Ghost is Lord; yet there are not three Lords but one Lord. For as we are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge each person by himself to be God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the same truth to say that there are three Gods or three Lords.? See Hagenbach, History of Doctrine, 1:270. We add that the personality of the Godhead as a whole is separate and distinct from all others and in this respect is more fully analogous to man?s personality than is the personality of the Father or of the Son.
The church of Alexandria in the second century chanted together: ?One only is holy, the Father; One only is holy, the Son; One only is holy, the Spirit.? Moberly, Atonement and Personality, 154, 167, 168 ? ?The three persons are neither three Gods, nor three parts of God. Rather are they God threefoldly, tri-personally? The personal distinction in Godhead is a distinction within, and of, Unity: not a distinction which qualifies Unity, or usurps the place of it, or destroys it. It is not a relation of mutual exclusiveness, but of mutual inclusiveness. No one person is or can be without the others. The personality of the supreme or absolute Being cannot be without self-contained mutuality of relations such as Will
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