Theology Thursday – The Trinity

Last week I mentioned that I was going start posting every now and then on Thursdays concerning theology and what I see as some practical ways such theology affects our lives. This is either the first or the second of those posts (it depends upon whether you consider the intro post a post on theology in and of itself or not). I thought I would start with my personal favorite theology – the theology of the Trinity.

I have to say that I find this icon of the Trinity a little freaky.

The traditional understanding of God as Trinity is that there is one God in three persons. The persons are distinct from one another, while being one in essence. The Trinity is the central mystery of God that I believe everything else comes out of. It is paradoxical and doesn’t make sense within the created universe BUT I am certain that it is also true. The Trinity means that God is singular and multiple at the exact same time. God as Trinitarian means that God is the he that is they, the them that are him. Basically it means that in and of himself God is community. He is His own community and needs1 no other. I believe this is why 1 John 4:8 says “God is love”. God is the Father loving the Son, the Son loving the Spirit, the Spirit loving the Father, and on and on in a “big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey“… mess of interactions.

But my goal for these posts isn’t an explanation of the doctrines. There are plenty of really good books for that. Alister McGrath`s Theology: The Basics is an excellent little entry level primer on the core doctrines of the Christian faith. You can go much further with McGrath if you like that book (he is one of my favorites). As for a good book on the Trinity I would recommend Stanley Grenz’s Theology for the Community of God. I believe Grenz does a great job of explaining the social aspect of the Trinity. Those authors and others do a much better job than I could on examining the biblical nature of the Trinity. What I am hoping to do with this post is to talk about how the Trinity should affect our daily lives.

IF (and by “if: I mean “since”) God’s nature is communitarian (i.e. Trinitarian)2  and we have been called into His divine nature (1 Peter 2:4) that we might know His love that surpasses knowledge and thereby be filled with filled “to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19) THEN this truth should affect how we live.3 In other words, we are most like God when we too are loving in such a way that we (those of us who are believers and followers of Christ) become one. Such love take lots of distinct persons and makes them one in being (or Who we receive our being from). Still distinct persons, with differences, opinions, and even disagreements, yet one in purpose and Lord. This is why Jesus tells His followers that others will know that they are His disciples if they love one another (John 13:34-35).  In other words, we literally look most like Jesus when we love each other in such a way that we are one. Why? Well because God is Trinity – the three who are one, the one who is three.  We bear His image when we are in our nature what He is in His nature. I believe this is also why Jesus responds with two answers when He is asked “which is the greatest commandment” (Mark 12:28-31). Us loving God (Mark 12:29-30) naturally involves loving others (Mark 12:31) because that is God’s nature. You can’t really love a God Who is community in and of Himself and then not like community in your own life.4

As someone who is proclaiming to be a Christian what I do should come out of the nature of God. We are called to be hospitable (Romans 12:13) because God is community in and of Himself and He seeks to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10) (i.e. the fellowship we were all original destined for with Him and with each other). Our hospitality comes from His nature. How can allow someone else to be forsaken and alone when I claim to love the God Who is never alone because He is three Who are one? The same goes for so much else. What is the danger of sin? The rebellion of it separates us from God and from others. Just look at the Eden story (Genesis 3), Adam & Eve are separated from God and from one another. Evil breaks apart the fellowship that comes from being in union with God. Why do we share the good news of the kingdom of God? Because God longs for others to be a part of the fellowship of His nature. God longs for none to be separate (1 Timothy 3:3-4 & 2 Peter 3:9) so we must seek to bring others into His fellowship.  Heck, God even gives us a description of the new heaven and new earth as being without a sea (Revelation 21:1). Why won’t there be a sea? Well because large bodies of water seriously separate people in the Ancient Near East.

I know this is a rather long post but I hope I am getting one very specific point across. That point is that God cares deeply about us being connected to Him and us being a part of connecting others to Him, because in and of Himself God is true community. He can’t help but desire for His nature to be spread because inviting others in displays the love each member of the Trinity have for each other. Just because the Trinity is a mystery and a paradox doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t direct how we live out the lives God has given us. The Trinity shows God as love. Love so great that is connects in an unbreakable manner. That is what God offers to us and expects us to offer to others. That fellowship that takes many and makes them one is His very nature. He is Trinity and He wants His followers to live in such a way that reflects that nature. So go and live out that type of love. It won’t be easy but no one ever said imitating God’s very nature would be. If it is easy then it probably isn’t the nature of the uncreated God.

Here’s a video of a basset hound running for those of you who made it all the way to end of this post.

  1. I stress needs here because while I believe that God does not need a relationship with us, He does invite us into relationship with Him. That invitation is important because if He needs us in order to be in relationship then God is no longer omnipotent. []
  2. which explains why Jesus’s only cry recorded during the passion of His crucifixion was from separation. Nails in His body, not a peep, but forshakeness and He cries out – Matthew 27:46 – separation goes against His very nature []
  3. In my opinion IF/THEN is a good way to look at theology, because IF something is true THEN it should affect life. []
  4. And you can’t truly worship the God Who is trinitarian when you are separated from your brother or sister – Matthew 5:23-24. []

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