As Poythress moves from some basic and grounding material in parts 1 and 2 (p1-78), his treatise gets into some really meaty ideas, albeit always in accessible language. I have no doubt that some people, among the “flat” trinitarian camp, will scoff at Poythress’s speculations, but as a generalization, this polymath is simply doing great theology–seeing all the world in light of the Triune. On page 108, there is an excellent insight upon which I have also remarked at times, namely that within God, and specifically His triunity, there is the archetype for distinction, even the big distinctions, like Creator and creation, day and night, heaven and earth, etc. This raises a question that I won’t try to answer here, as I am still half-way in formulating my answer to it: are all these distinctions (which require a binary) part of a triad in some way? if so, in the same way? Or are there multiple patterns of relations between the binaries and the triads (trinaries?)
Leaving that aside, the paragraph from Poythress reads,
God is one God. His unity is the firm guarantee that the created world that he made will have harmony and will be fundamentally unified. But God also has resources in himself that are the foundation for the diversity in the created world. The world as a whole is created, and is distinct from its Creator. Man, made in the image of God, is distinct from God. This distinction rests on the deeper distinction within God. The Son as the image is distinct from the Father, who is the pattern for the image. The Son is the divine image. Man is a created image. But still, man’s distinctness rests on a deeper distinctness, the distinctness of the Son from the Father.
On the whole, Poythress is quite correct. This is a sentence that many theologians wouldn’t dare to write, and in fact many theologians would have a problem even saying that the image of God in man reflects the Son as the image of the Father in particular, rather than the image of God generally. Poythress here goes further though, arguing, again rightly, that the idea of image constitutes distinction. If something is the reflection of something else, it means it is not, in some way, the thing it reflects.
This foundation is crucial to our understanding of the world, carried out and carried on by distinctions (though not only distinctions), as Poythress will unfold later to some degree.
Having said this, I think the vocabulary of “deeper distinction within God” is potentially dangerous and I wonder if another term here would have been better to safeguard the unity of the Divine Persons. Now, it seems likely to me that Poythress may be using the word “deeper” here in the sense of “more foundational,” rather than “greater.” But to be clear, I would not be comfortable with the statement that man’s distinction from God is not as great as Christ’s distinction from God. Everything in Scripture hinges upon the Creator/creature divide, divine immanency and the historical doctrine of divinization notwithstanding.
But on the whole, Poythress is doing phenomenal work and due to his more explicitly Trinitarian approach, is extending Frame’s tri-perspectivalism in helpful ways, which happily for me, accord with my own system.