Showing items filed under “D: The Sanctuary II: Who is God? The Trinity, divine attributes, election, grace”

The Trinity:  the relevance of irrelevance

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The name of the one God for Christians is found in the Trinitarian formula, ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’ This is found approximately in II Corinthians 13:14, ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit’ and in the great commission at the end of Matthew, 28:19. While it is rooted in the New Testament witness and liturgical practice, the early centuries of the Church saw development and deepening of the Church’s understanding of the theology which the name encapsulates. This then is the first thing to say: the doctrine of the Trinity is not in addition to the witness of Scripture, but enables the Church to understand that witness. It points us back to the identity of God revealed in the Bible.

At the same time that identity is revealed, the mystery of God is not compromised. The persons are not parts of God, nor qualities alone, such that one could add a fourth and fifth. He is that same one God who is the prime actor of the Bible’s story. There is a life within God, and relations, but not in such a way that ‘God’ is only a term for them taken collectively. You can see how the doctrine serves to tell us how not to think about him, to correct errors, at the same time what it identifies who He is.

As we shall see in the next blog, the persons are involved in all that God does in the world and for us. God speaks his Word as the Spirit broods over creation in the beginning. The Father speaks to the Son as the Spirit descends at Jesus’ baptism.  And yet the doctrine Trinity says more than how God acts in the world. It first of all says, who He is, and from eternity.  He is already there in Genesis 1 before the world comes to be, and the triune God chooses to create the world for the sake of His overflowing love and beneficence. There is neither here nor anywhere any necessity imposed on God.

So, we first of all, hear who God Father, Son, and Spirit is, and do so in wonder. It is not first of all knowledge that helps us accomplish anything.  He is so, on His own for His own sake.  That is what we mean by the doctrine’s irrelevance, to our purposes at least. St. Augustine said that God can never be used, only enjoyed.  Nowhere is this more true than with this the holy, mysterious, and infinitely dynamic name of God.

Sing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy” and observe how it illustrates the nature of the Trinitarian doctrine.

Tags: d2

The Nature of God Himself: Reliability

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In the beginning of his Gospel account, Luke offers as his goal to show the reliability of what God has revealed about Jesus Christ, through his writing.  At the most obvious level, he is saying that his account is accurate and so can be trusted. But at a deeper level he is saying that Jesus Christ really is who Luke is claiming He is, namely the Messiah and the Son of God. But we can take this emphasis on reliability one step further: because Jesus really is who Luke says he is, then God Himself really is who He is heard claimed and identified to be. We can put our trust here, because He is trustworthy, and what we are trusting first of all is that God is really who we are told He is.  In the same vein, Hebrews 6:19 tells us that we have a ‘sure and certain hope’ in the One there revealed.

This is important since God is God, ‘immortal, invisible, only wise’ (as we began our presentations by saying).  If He is beyond our knowing, might He not seem so to our limited minds, but turn out to be radically otherwise? That is why it is called a ‘hope’ in Hebrews, and yet it is said to be ‘certain,’ that is, reliable and trustworthy. He will in heaven be seen to be yet more so as He was revealed to be, but it will be He and not another  (Job 19:25). 

We can get a sense of what is at stake here if we think for a moment about the heresy in the early Church called ‘modalism.’  We may speak of God as Father, Son, and Spirit, but perhaps these are but masks He wears for our benefit in our world, but He may be other than this really, and He may have in addition a thousand other masks, some of them quite contrary. (You can see how religious pluralism, where the revelations of the religions are versions of God according to the limits of human language and perception, would tend toward such a modalistic skepticism.  This fear that God may not really be, ultimately so eats away at the very ground of any religious life.  What if there lurks an angry God behind this mask of beneficence - doesn’t our harsh conscience fear exactly this?

But by contrast, the claim of ‘reliability’ embedded in the Gospel goes exactly to this point. The revelation is of God in Himself (in Latin,’ in se’).  The One revealed, Jesus, is ‘in the bosom of the Father’; the point here is exactly that whom Jesus reveals is God Himself, as He really is, though He remains no less mysterious and transcendent.

This, first and last, is what the doctrine of the Trinity is saying: that the very nature, identity, and character of the God of eternity is reliably and accessibly revealed in Jesus Christ.  To see Jesus is to have seen the Father! (John 14:9).  This is at once a great comfort, a great mystery, and a great scandal. 

Listen to Job 19:25 in a recording of Handel’s Messiah

Tags: d.1


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