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The Holy Trinity

Herman Bavinck's "The Holy Trinity" is a monumental work that explores the profound mysteries of the Trinity as revealed throughout the Bible. Beginning with God's multifaceted revelation in the Old Testament, Bavinck considers the foundational elements of Trinitarian doctrine as they emerge historically and scripturally. He navigates through the theological developments and challenges posed by Arianism and Sabellianism, elaborates on the intricate terminology used to describe the Trinity, and examines the distinctions among the three Persons. Bavinck's erudite analysis bridges the gap between the Old and New Testaments, offering a rich, scripturally grounded exploration of the Trinity's economic and immanent aspects. This introduction encapsulates the depth and breadth of Bavinck's examination, presenting the Trinity not merely as a theological concept but as the central reality of Christian faith and divine revelation.

Bavinck presents an orthodox understanding of the Trinity that firmly stands within the Reformed tradition, affirming the essential unity and diversity within the Godhead. Bavinck explains that the Trinity is not merely a theological or philosophical speculation but lies at the very heart of the Christian faith, distinguishing it from both Judaism, which denies the distinction in God, and paganism, which denies the unity of God. He emphasizes that the Trinity reveals God as the true Life, the eternal beauty, where unity and diversity exist in perfect harmony, an absolute unity and diversity that cannot be found in the created order.

Bavinck argues against both Sabellianism and Arianism, which fail to uphold the true understanding of the Trinity. Sabellianism, in its denial of the real and eternal distinction between the Persons, and Arianism, in its failure to acknowledge the full divinity of the Son and the Spirit, both deviate from the orthodox teaching of the Trinity as three distinct Persons of one essence, co-equal and co-eternal. This orthodox understanding, as Bavinck presents, is critical for maintaining the integrity of the Christian doctrine of God, which asserts that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share the same essence while remaining distinct in their personhood and relations.

Furthermore, Bavinck stresses the importance of the Trinity in understanding God's work in creation and redemption. The economic Trinity, as reflected in the operations of God towards the world, mirrors the immanent Trinity, the eternal relations within God Himself. This profound connection underscores the unity and diversity in the works of God, revealing the Trinitarian nature of divine actions in salvation history.

In essence, Bavinck's orthodox view of the Trinity underscores the mystery of God's being as revealed in Scripture, defended by the ecumenical councils, and confessed by the Christian church through the ages. It is a doctrine that serves not merely as an abstract concept but as the foundational truth of the Christian faith, inviting believers into a deeper worship and understanding of the one true God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Taken from Volume Two of Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics

Year of release
Table of contents


God's Revelation in the Old Testament

Judaism In-Between Testaments

The New Testament

Theological Development of Trinitarianism

Arianism and Sabellianism

The Terminology of the Trinity

The Distinctions Among the Three Persons

Distinctions Between East and West

The Economic Trinity

Analogies of the Trinity

Special Revelation and the Trinity