September 07, 2014

Why God the Father and God the Son?

Hi Sir, I am very glad to meet you through online...

I understood the essentiality of trinity, there is no doubt about why I should believe in triune God. But, I have been thinking what could be the reason for son and father relationship in God’s head.

There are many relationships in the world, for example son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother, friend, mate, colleague. But why did God choose to reveal himself as God the Father, God the Son? Why didn’t He wish to be the mother, or the friend or any other relation with the second person of trinity?

I believe that any one of these kinds of relationships would still give rise to the same question - why mother and son or daughter and why not other...? I would like to know various reasons for Jesus was to come as the son of the father.



Your question presupposes that God is a Trinity, Sangeetha, so we’ll start with that assumption. Theologians often distinguish between the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity. The ontological Trinity concerns God as He is intrinsically, unrelated to creatures. The economic Trinity concerns God in relation to us, particularly the roles played by each person in the plan of salvation. In asking “why did God choose to reveal himself as God the Father, God the Son? Why didn’t He wish to be the mother, or the friend or any other relation with the second person of trinity?,” you seem to divorce the economic Trinity from the ontological Trinity, as though God could reveal Himself to be something incompatible with the way He really is.

According to the classical doctrine of the Trinity promulgated at the Council of Nicaea, God the Father eternally begets God the Son. This relation is sometimes called filiation, so that there is an intrinsic filial relationship between the first and second persons of the Trinity. So it is impossible for those persons to be related as mere friends, mates, colleagues, or siblings. The only question would be why the genders are not feminine rather than masculine: why not God the Mother or God the daughter? Given that the persons of the Trinity do not literally have a gender (since they are incorporeal), why are they revealed as masculine? The Bible says that men and women alike are created in the image of God, so any non-physical properties of masculinity and femininity which there might be must be alike comprised by God’s nature. Since God is neither male nor female, why does He reveal Himself as Father and Son?

In the Old Testament there are passages in which God presents Himself as a mother tenderly caring for her children. But Jesus thought of God as his Heavenly Father and revealed Him as such. In using the metaphor of God the Father, Jesus expresses two attributes of God which would not be so aptly captured by the metaphor of God as a Mother. The metaphor of God as a Heavenly Father captures both the parental love that God has for us and the authority that a father, as the head of the Jewish family, exercises. No other image could express so beautifully this combination of qualities in God.

As for the second person of the Trinity, it seems obvious that Jesus as a man should be called the Son of God. It would be inept for the second person of the Trinity to be revealed in Jesus of Nazareth as God the Daughter! If the second person of the Trinity had chosen to become incarnate as a woman, such a title would have been apt. But it is dubious, to say the least, that such a decision on God’s part would be the most effective way to express His nature or to reach the world.

If we do not embrace the classical relationships within the ontological Trinity, then it is more difficult to exclude that God should reveal Himself as three friends, for example. But we mustn’t forget that Jesus’ being begotten by God the Father is presented in the New Testament with respect to his human nature. The classical doctrine presents the second person of the Trinity as begotten with respect to his divine nature. Jesus’ being begotten of God through his virginal conception by Mary warrants his being called God’s Son. As the angel explains to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1. 35). Again, Jesus’ being masculine precludes his being called the Daughter of God. And once again, in virtue of the Son’s incarnation and virginal conception, the first person of the Trinity, for the same reasons mentioned above, is appropriately called his Heavenly Father. That precludes the economic Trinity’s being composed of mere friends or siblings.

So whether we think of Jesus as begotten in his divine nature or simply in his human nature, I think we can see why God should reveal Himself to us as God the Father and God the Son (not to mention God the Holy Spirit!).