Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Reformed Irenicism Sacred Doctrine

First Topic: “What Is God?”

We finally come to the first topic, the true knowledge and invocation of God. The first question he asks is what (not who) God is. The best place to go for an answer, in his opinion, are the Creeds. He recommends that young people learn these and older people recite them daily. Recitation causes reflection, which is a means of the application of the benefits of Christ to us. Recitatio, moreover, serves for Chytraeus as both confessio (against devils) and consolatio (in tribulation).

He then gives another “familiar” definition, which begins with the assertion that God is a “spiritual essence” (essentia spiritualis) and then moves on to elaborate this one essence in personal, Trinitarian terms. This passage is one instance in which the later editions differ from the earlier one (the only one that has previously been translated into English). In the earlier edition, a long quotation from Melanchthon’s Loci Communes was placed between the two definitions below, and the second definition served as a summary of the (longer) definition of Melanchthon.

In the last sentence included here, Chytraeus notes that God is revealed both in creation and in Scripture, but wills to be “known” and “worshiped” according to the latter alone.



Quid est Deus?

Simplicissima & optima definitio DEI est SYMBOLUM APOSTOLORUM, vel Nicenum: quod iuniores omnes accurate ediscere, & nos grandiores etiam quotidie & attente recitare utilissimum est, ut nos ad cognitionem de Deo, & de tribus personis, de omnibus Dei operibus & beneficiis, de creatione, de redemtione [sic] generis humani per filium, de persona, officio, passione, morte, resurrectione & regno Christi, de perpetua Eccelsiae collectione, de extremo iudicio, de remissione peccatorum, & vita aeterna, exuscitemus. Et hac cogitatione in piis fit applicatio beneficiorum Christi, & ipsa recitatio est confessio contra diabolos, & in doloribus ac aerumnis consolatio dulcis & efficax.

Deinde & usitata descriptio DEI teneatur.

DEUS est essentia spiritualis, unica, aeterna, verax, iusta, misericors, omnipotens, Pater aeternus, & Filius imago Patris, & Spiritus sanctus a Patre et Filio procedens: patefacta in creatione mundi & verbo Ecclesiae tradito, iuxta quod solum ab hominibus agnosci & coli vult, & in omni aeternitate celebrari.

First Topic.

Concerning the true knowledge and invocation of God.

What is God?

The simplest and best definition of “God” is the Apostles’ Creed, or the Nicene [Creed]: all young people ought to learn this exactly, and it is most useful that we who are older also recite it daily and carefully, so that we may stir ourselves up to the knowledge of God, and of the three persons, of all of the works and kindnesses of God, of creation, of the redemption of the human race through the Son, of the person, office, passion, death, resurrection, and reign of Christ, of the continuous gathering of the Church, of the Last Judgment, of the remission of sins and eternal life. And by this reflection in the case of the pious there comes about the application of the kindnesses of Christ, and the recitation itself is a confession against devils and a consolation sweet and effective in sufferings and tribulations.

Next, the [following] familiar description of God should be remembered.

God is a spiritual essence, singular, eternal, true, just, merciful, almighty, the eternal Father, and the Son, the Image of the Father, and the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son; revealed in the creation of the world and the word handed on to the Church, according to which [word] alone [he] wishes to be known and worshiped by men, and to be honored in all eternity.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.