Article | The Incarnation and the Trinity by Christopher B. Kaiser

Kaiser

Kaiser, Christopher B. “The Incarnation and the Trinity: Two Doctrines Rooted in the Offices of Christ.” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 43, no. 1-4 (1998): 221-255.

Author

Chris Kaiser began his professional life as a scientist and went on to become a theologian, and his teaching vocation has always included working to build bridges between his two disciplines. He has been part of Western’s faculty since 1976. He has also served as lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and has been a resident member of the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey. There, he conducted research on the interaction of science and theology during the Renaissance and the eighteenth century.

He is a frequent contributor to theological journals, and his 1991 book, Creation and the History of Science, was awarded a John Templeton Prize for Outstanding Books in Science and Religion.

Dr. Kaiser has served on the Theological Commission of the Reformed Church in America and is active in the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Gospel and Our Culture Network.

Notes

I came across this article while doing background research on Kaiser. I was researching him because I was reading The Church Between Gospel and Culture and I really enjoyed his chapter that traced the history of the modern secularization of Western culture. I searched for other articles he had written and came across this one regarding the Trinity. Fancy that, I’m studying the Trinity, too!

Kaiser, in this article, tries to weave together the traditional, western theological debate as to whether the doctrine of the Trinity emerged “from above” or “from below.” He bypasses the argument and claims that these are western theological categories. In fact, the Trinity and the Incarnation are simultaneous doctrines that both flow from (1) the New Testament witness, and (2) a deeply Hebrew imagination that links the Trinity and the Incarnation into Old Testament literature.

Here is his summary, quoted in full:

I have argued that the most suitable starting point for both doctrines, the Trinity and the Incarnation, is the person and work of Christ as apprehended in terms of the types of the Hebrew Bible and recorded in the New Testament.

Belief in Jesus as the Word made flesh, the embodiment of divine Wisdom, and God’s own Son, provides the basis for our understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. The Word and Wisdom of God had been known only as divine energies or attributes (probably not hypo-statically) in the Hebrew Bible: they were one way, perhaps, of describing God’s immanence in the world.As a result of the life and death of Jesus, however, they came to be viewed as a distinct divine person, coming from the Father and returning to the Father, but equal in deity to the Father. And, as a result of the resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit, a distinction of three divine hypostases was recognized in the New Testament.

Conversely, belief in Jesus as the Mosaic prophet, Davidic messiah, and substitute for Isaac provides the basis for our understanding the doctrine of the Incarnation and Atonement. In New Testament times, the legitimate prophetic, royal, and priestly offices were known to Israel only as memories from a distant past. As a result of the work of Christ, however, they came to be viewed as present realities, now so implanted in the history of Israel and in human nature that they could never cease to be effective.

The connecting link between the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation is found in the person and work of Christ. Only on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, do we understand that there is a Trinity of divine persons. On this basis, we also understand that the second person of this Trinity has been united with our human nature and will never forsake us. The gift of prophecy, the light of divine wisdom, and the obligation to live sacrificially are ours forever. (242-243)