ChurchETHOS

Distinctively Christian: The Trinity

Posted in christian thought, theology by Nathan Creitz on October 24, 2008
This series of posts will address the theological and practical ways we as Christians are encouraged to be different. Some Christians become very different and are seen as quirky and out of touch. Other Christians try to blend in and seek to keep their faith to themselves. Both of these extremes are destructive to the Church. The thinking Christian has to discover those areas where they are to be different in thought and action from the world without sacrificing influence and reputation with the world.

GOD

Our view of God is the most radical and original view known to humanity. It is not in the best interests of humanity to come up with the God of the Bible which is a strong argument (though not the only one) in favor of the God of the Bible. All the religions of the world come up with a god in their own image but, again, no human could have anticipated our God.

One God in Three Persons?

The distinct doctrine of orthodox Christianity is that God is one God in three persons. At the beginning of his Gospel, John writes, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I encourage you to continue reading chapter one of John’s Gospel to discover that “the Word” is referring to Jesus and it goes on to say that “all things were created through Him…” Here, John is not only placing Jesus as an equal with God, he’s teaching something that grates against our human understanding – that Jesus is with God and, at the same time, that He IS God! How can Jesus be with God and be God at the same time? At other places in the Bible we also see that the Spirit of God is a separate person and is also with God and is God at the same time. I’ve said elsewhere that it’s difficult to explain this concept other than to say that if God were easy to explain then there wouldn’t be any mystery or awe when we ponder His divine nature. God is Father, Spirit, and Son together in perfect unity and community and oneness.

One God Not Three gods

This post will not delve into all of the wonderful ramifications of worshiping a God who is One yet three. However, I do want to say a little bit about who or what God is not. The God of the Bible is not three gods. The God of the Bible is not many gods. He also is not simply a god with only one person. In order for God to be God, He must be viewed in terms of the Trinity. Herman Bavinck, a Dutch Reformed Theologian said, “The confession of the Trinity is the heartbeat of the Christian religion. All error is traceable to a departure from this doctrine.” As a result, the God of the Bible is the only God that exists and the only God worthy of our worship. To worship any other god is to deny the one true God, placing oneself in opposition to God. To reject the triune God is to rebel and to be willing to suffer the consequences.

I realize this sounds exclusive and close-minded. As Billy Graham puts it, when he flies he hopes his pilot is close-minded when he decides to land the plane. We certainly don’t want our pilots to be coming in any way they want. We are all close-minded to some extent. I refuse to drive on the wrong side of the road. I guess I could choose to drive on the wrong side of the road but then I would be inviting destruction upon myself and others. You could say I am closed to the idea of driving on the wrong side of the road. G.K. Chesterton said, “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” Let’s all just get over the fact that close-mindedness is not always a bad thing. God will not accept our worship of false gods any more than my wife would accept me giving myself to a prostitute (even if she did look like my wife). When you get married, you close yourself to other women. Now that I know God, I have chosen to reject all other false gods.

The God Who Came Down the Mountain

So, is Christianity exclusive and intolerant? Is it bad news to suggest that Jesus is the only path the triune God has given us by which we may know Him? The Trinity is the most inclusive and inviting God humans could ever have wanted. Our God has invited all to repent and believe in Him and has promised eternal and abundant life for those who do. Christians often quote Romans 3:23 out of context: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is definitely bad news but in the context or Romans 3, it is part of the best news humanity will ever receive. In context, Paul is saying that God is aware of our helpless condition and that we are His enemies because of our sin against Him. Romans 3:23 is from God’s perspective. In other words, He is aware that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” so He chose in His mercy and love to do something about it. The very next sentence says, “They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The next sentence tells us that God removed His wrath from those who have faith in Jesus and that He passes over their sins. The next sentence after that says that He did all of this to demonstrate His righteousness and to declare us righteous. He doesn’t make us stop sinning and make us perfect (have you met any Christians lately?), but He declares that we have become holy and blameless in his sight.

Every religion of the world says that different religions are like different paths to God. They suggest eloquently that we are all climbing the same mountain and God is waiting tolerantly and lovingly at the top for us to arrive. The thinking Christian has discovered that God is not a passive God waiting for us to figure it out and make it to the top. The thinking Christian knows that those paths lead to nowhere and will eventually end in death and eternal separation from the one true triune God because those religions are seeking a god of their own making (God calls it idolatry). The good news is, the thinking Christian knows that, even though we cannot attain God’s good favor through our own effort, God is an active God who has already made it possible for us to know Him and have fellowship with Him. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:6) Sounds very exclusive, but it is the most inclusive offer humanity will ever receive. Though we are completely cut off because of our sinful nature and our rejection of God, God has offered us life through His Son Jesus Christ. Anyone is free to accept Him and enter into a relationship with the Creator God.

Our Trinity is a wonderful God. He is the God who created us. He is the God who saves us from ourselves. He is the God who offers eternal and abundant life through faith in Him. He is the God who will not tolerate a world that denies Him. He is the God who won’t accept the worship of counterfeit gods. He is always consistent, He is always faithful, and He will always love us. He is One God in three persons. This is the God whom I love and serve.

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One Response

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  1. ericwfesmire said, on October 25, 2008 at 11.29 pm

    Hey Nathan –

    Thanks for the comment on my blog. I decided to stop by here and check it out. Added you to me blogroll and will be stopping back to check out more of the posts (actually don’t have a newsreader (yet!!) but am planning to subscribe once I do.) I have limited time to read but am looking forward to this series on the Trinity. So…

    Looking forward to the conversation. Will respond to your comment to me shortly (It’s rather late right now.)


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