The Otherness – and yet Rightness – of the Trinitarian Idea
(My friend Keith Brenton is a lot smarter and a little more patient than I am. You should visit his blog. My scribblings today began in seed form in a comment I made there.)
Some people are contrary. I know this because whenever someone suggests an idea, my first instinct is, “No, I think it goes like this.” I’ve given many people the rough edge of my tongue over the years because I loved the sound of my own voice more than I loved the sound of peace.
What does any of this have to do with the Trinity? Good question – I guess you could call it context. All theology (all living, for that matter) is done in a context. Even hermits have surroundings that form their ideas and activities. So when I speak of someone being a contrarian, I hope that is heard in the proper context – that I’ve got three fingers accurately pointing back at me when I point it out in someone else.
Keith and I have an Internet acquaintance who is a contrarian with two hobby horses: the Trinity and the personal indwelling of the Spirit of God in Christians. If you live in a Christian context where questioning those two things sounds crazy, you’re not alone. If you look at posts like this and wonder, “Why are you wasting your time with arguments like this when you could be out offering someone a helping hand?” you’re also not alone. God rescued me in the context of a contrarian fellowship – one of our favorite Scriptures is “Test everything – hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess 5:21) We haven’t obeyed the prior verse with anything like the same passion, but what can you do? Our acquaintance has driven us to do a lot of thinking and clarifying about these matters – I can honestly say that I wouldn’t know half as much about why I believe in the Trinity if I hadn’t been pushed to express it in myriad ways.
- Yes, the Emperor Constantine summoned a council of bishops in 325 to debate (among other things) the Christian church’s doctrine about the nature of the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit;
- Yes, that council could have had a broader representation of ideas on the matter in question;
- Yes, that debate – three centuries after the life of Christ – resulted in the broad acceptance of the Trinity doctrine (that had been openly taught and challenged since the late 100s);
- No, the word “trinity” does not appear in the Bible (that was a big sticking-point for me for several years);
- Yes, the idea of three-in-one, a perfect communal-unity of agape love, is beyond our ability to categorize thoroughly or to express with exhaustive accuracy.
BUT… (and here I’ll risk the arrogance of quoting what I wrote earlier today):
“What is true is that whether doctrinal exposition comes from the pen of Justin Martyr or the pen of Nick Gill or the pen of my contrarian brother, it must be tested against the Scriptures. And on that account – which was the whole point of the Nicea debate – the idea of the Trinity stands firm as the best model to describe the Father-Son-Spirit relationship we see throughout Scripture. NOT necessarily every doctrine that has been surmised about the Trinity – since Scripture is no more about the inner relationship of Father-Son-Spirit than it is about the work of angels, we should not be surprised that Scripture does not neatly and exhaustively exposit that relationship – so there are going to be some wrong-headed conclusions drawn, even if the idea is headed in the right direction.”
“No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”
“He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”
“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
in HIS love,