Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Our Good God.

The Ineffability of the Trinity

If ever there was a topic for making anyone feel like an assistant pig-keeper it must be this, the doctrine of the Trinity.  Three, and yet one.  The Father, the Spirit and the Son.  All three fully God and yet this God is one God, not three.  The sheer impossibility of it defies our feeble mortal minds – how can there be three who are one?

Truly anyone who claims to fully understand the nature of the Trinity is either mad, foolishly arrogant or just lying.  Such a grasp is beyond the reach of human intellect, we can understand the nature of insects – how they function, how each part fits together to create the organism, what drives them and motivates them – because we are greater than insects.  They are simple and lowly compared to us.  Yet surely trying to understand the nature of the God who sits enthroned above the earth and to whom we look like little grasshoppers is madness.  To expect fallen human minds like our own to understand God is like expecting insects to understand us.

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

Grasshoppers do not grasp the ways of men, nor do men ever fully understand the ways of God.

So surely then we should not even try to grasp the Trinity at all?  After all if it is an impossible truth about a God we could never understand then why bother?  Surely those who do are merely trying to ‘effor’ the ineffable?

I cannot hope to convey the intricacies of the Triune God in a way that could be understood, perhaps I’ll do a blog post on it when ‘The Good God’ comes out and I can more easily plagiarise the wisdom of Mike Reeves…   Until that day however, I just want to briefly consider some reasons why it’s worth grappling with this truth, why truly the doctrine of the Trinity is the most wonderful and beautiful doctrine that the Bible teaches.

The uniqueness of the Trinity

Put simply, the doctrine of the Trinity is possibly the sole doctrine of Christianity that is found nowhere else.  Many religions believe in one God, many in a whole pantheon of Gods.  But not a single other religion believes that there is one God who is three persons.  You couldn’t make the trinity up, and if you wanted anyone to believe you then you wouldn’t even if you could…  Surely if this truth is one of the great distinguishers of our faith then it is worth knowing, studying and pondering!  This glorious truth sets Christianity apart from all other faiths.  Almost every other aspect of the Christian faith is seen in some other belief bar this.

But this uniqueness is not the only reason to get to know the triune God, nor is it even the best reason.

The character of the Trinity

The Triune God is simply the most beautiful picture of God.  If we look at the Bible we see something about God, He has many emotional attributes, many characteristics but only one of those characteristics or attributes defines who He is.

God is love.

God is just, but He is not defined by His justice.
God is merciful, but He is not defined by His mercy.
God is kind, but He is not defined by His kindness.
God is angry at evil, but He is not defined by that anger.
God is powerful, but He is not defined by His power.
God is not defined by any of these, by power, or justice, or mercy, or wrath.  Simply this:

God loves, and He is Love.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:8

You see many of these attributes of God's character that are in that list above flow from this defining characteristic. God is just, because He loves the vicitims.  God is merciful, because He loves even those who turn away from him. God is kind, because He loves.
God is angry at evil, because He loves the people whom evil hurts.

All of the above is fairly familiar to us all, but this thought may not be.  God is love, because He is Trinitarian in His character.  And here lies the key to it, because if God existed alone before the dawn of creation then what was there for Him to love? What could there be?  If He is not triune then He is first creator and lawgiver – not lover.  But because God is three in one Jesus can say of the Father in John 17 and verse 24 that “you loved me before the foundation of the world”.  God is first and foremost a Father, a loving, gracious and kind being – not a powerful creator and lawgiver (although He is also that).

And so the doctrine of the Trinity is foundational to the basic character of God - His love.  This is not a take it or leave it doctrine but the very core of what we believe about God!

Our Salvation through the Trinity

All Christian essays or sermons have to have 3 points, how much more so one on the Trinity…  So I will conclude with this.  If God were not Trinity, we would not be here today.  As Christians we believe ourselves to be the eternally loved children of God the Father, ransomed through the blood and death of God the Son and brought to know that sacrifice through the saving work of God the Holy Spirit.

If God was not a Father, whose child would you be?

If God was not a Son, who would have paid that sacrifice?

If God was not Spirit, who would dwell in us and change our hearts from within?

Father, Son and Spirit work together in salvation, as in everything.  Our very lives rest on this doctrine.  And what a glorious foundation it is to rest upon!  Because if God is our Father then we, as his Children can never ever be ‘unchildrened’.  And if God the Son died for us and intercedes for us then will His Father deny us anything?  And if the Spirit lives in us then we have true hope for change in our fallen broken lives.

I would like to write on about this but my time is short so I will leave you with wiser words than mine:

“The doctrine of the Trinity is of incalculable importance for the Christian religion.
The entire Christian belief system, all of special revelation, stands or falls with the confession of Gods Trinity.
It is the core of the Christian faith, the root of all its dogmas, the basic content of the new covenant…
Our salvation, both in this life and in the life to come, is bound up with the doctrine of the Trinity.”
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2: God and Creation

As Bavinck says there, the Trinity is absolutely the core doctrine of the Christian faith.  Even so, perhaps it is true that if Christianity was a mere system of beliefs then the Trinity would be too complex to bother with, but it's so much more than that.  The Christian faith is all about relationship, relationship with a God who is above all else Love.  A Good God, THE Good God.  And if we are to be in relationship with this God then we must get to know him.  Who (of the guys among us) would claim to understand women?  And yet who would use that lack of understanding as an excuse for not trying?

How much more then should we strain to grasp as much of the nature of the Good God as we can in the time that remains for us here?

<<Written in more of a hurry than I’d like for the Theology Network competition.  That's the trouble with landing it in the middle of events week... I've edited it to improve it a bitty since.>>

1 comment:

  1. Two years ago, I heard Carolyn Culver relate this story: While in Russia, a man on a train scoffed her Christianity. He said, if God was love, then why would He send His Son instead of coming to die Himself? She didn't give an answer, but I have thought about it much since. My answer is that it is a greater sacrifice to give your son than to die in His place. I humbly submit the truth of the Trinity, taken in this light, shows our Father's love in even greater detail. Thank-you for your thought-provoking post.