Two Looks at the Trinity

Gordon Fee and St. Gregory of Nazianzus both present the doctrine of the Trinity, but in different ways.  St. Gregory goes into a bit more theological depth, and this makes sense.  Just five years before St. Gregory’s birth the Council of Nicea met to discuss the Arian controversy.  During St. Gregory’s ministry Arianism was particularly strong, and as a result he used much more theological terms, and scripture to counterpoint those of his opponents.  He had to do this because his opponents were using scripture, but they were also guilty of eisegesis.  St. Gregory states in oration 31, “Look at the facts:  Christ is born, the spirit is his forerunner, Christ is baptized, the spirit bears him witness.  Is there any significant function of God, which the Spirit does not perform [1].”  Here St. Gregory is attributing, using scripture, that the Holy Spirit does perform some of the same functions as the Father and the Son.  This implies the Biblical teaching of the Trinity which states that there is one God in three persons.

Dr. Gordon Fee’s study on Paul is a very helpful resource, but a distinction must be made in regards to Paul.  When Paul was preaching and writing his letters his doctrine of the Trinity was not challenged.  In many places in his letters he mentions the Trinity, but it is never disputed.  One such passage is 2 Corinthians 13:14 which states, “May the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  Another is Acts 19:2 when Paul encounters believers baptizing in with John’s baptism.  They had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit, and after educating them they were properly baptized.  Gordon Fee describes Paul as expressing, “The Spirit, who reveals to us the ‘deep things of God’, does so because he alone knows the mind of God; and the Spirit is our intercessor, who prays through us in keeping with God’s own pleasure, precisely because the Spirit and the Father each knows the mind of the other [2].”

Both areas are very helpful as St. Gregory describes the Trinity via the actions of the Father, Son, and Spirit.  He vividly describes what each does.  Gordon Fee describes the Apostle Paul’s understanding of the Trinity in terms of an intricate relationship.  Each knows the mind of the other, and know how to interact because each only knows the mind of the other.  A problem of words arises as the same thing is being discussed, but there is a 1600 year gap in language.

It is very helpful to understand how Paul understood the Trinity because his words are sometimes twisted to mean something he did not mean.  From a purely theological point of view St, Gregory’s description was much more detailed.  It had to be to combat the heresy that was going on.


Works Cited

  1. Gregory of Nazianzus.  On God and Christ:  The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius.  (Crestwood, NY:  St. Vladamirs Press, 2002), 139.
  2. Gordon D. Fee. Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. (Nashville, TN:  Baker Publishing Group, kindle locations 950-965), Kindle Edition

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