All posts in “Trinitarian theology”

Trinitarian Theology after Barth: a Review

Book: Trinitarian Theology after Barth (Princeton Theological Monograph) ed. by Myk Habets and Phillip Tolliday, with a foreword by John Webster (AMAZON LINK)

Publisher: Pickwick Publications (an imprint of Wipf & Stock Publishers), included in the Princeton Theological Monograph Series #148 (PUBLISHER LINK)

Overview: Like any collection of essays, there will always be those essays that hit a home run, those that intrigue great interest, and sadly sometimes also those that fall flat. In this collection there were far more home-runs and sparks of intrigue than in most of the collections I’ve read, and for that reason alone this is an excellent and thought-provoking book well worth your time. It will be of special interest for those wanting to study Barth’s Trinitarian theology, and particularly to examine the diverse streams of thought of those who have more or less followed after his work. Continue Reading…

On “Mere Christianity” and Trinitarian Thinking

Mere ChristianityI’ve just finished reading C.S. Lewis’ book “Mere Christianity” today. I really enjoyed this book, but I also have a few thoughts on it.

I think Lewis would have done much better if he had began with his understanding of the Trinity, and then proceeded to work out the rest of the book from there, rather than just tacking it onto the end. It’s still a great book, but it’s much like most of our modern day Christian ways of thinking. We often start by thinking through our concepts of God, salvation, and morality then we add on stuff like the Trinity. But what if we were to be strictly Trinitarian first, and then see all these other things in the light of the Trinity? Wouldn’t everything else have a much richer and fuller meaning if understood within a Trinitarian framework?

I think so, but sadly we have often done just what Lewis has done. We work out our doctrines apart from the Trinity, and then give a statement or two about it at the end. But the Trinity cannot be just a nice doctrine we add onto the end of our theology. If the Trinity is true, then it must be central. For if God truly is Trinitarian, then this is the deepest truth about who He is, and therefore, all that we say and think about Him must be said and thought out in a strictly Trinitarian way.

 C.S. Lewis does do an excellent job here in describing the Trinity, however. He makes some truly stunning statements. For example: “It [the Trinity] matters more than anything else in the world.” (153)

And one of my favorite quotes from the book: “In Christianity God is not a static thing–not even a person–but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irrelevant, a kind of dance.” (152)

So I give him credit. Lewis at least gets around to the Trinity. Most Christian books never even get that far. But we should take the Trinity far more seriously. If it is true, and I believe it is, then we must rethink all of our ideas about God and life from this starting point. A Trinitarian theology does not just give lip-service to the Trinity. A true Trinitarian theology sees everything as a Trinitarian issue, and works out all theology from a strict Trinitarian perspective.

May we think more Trinitarian, and see what makes God so stunning and wonderful!

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If you want to learn more about what it means to “think Trinitarian” check out this podcast.

Have you read Lewis’ book? What did you think?

Are We Forgetting the Trinity? (Podcast)

This message was spoken at Hope church in Tallinn, Estonia on April 23rd, 2014.

Notes:

“We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.” – Karl Rehner

How much of our knowledge of God is Unitarian, when it should be Trinitarian?

How can we know anything about God? If knowledge is knowing the inner being of a person, than how can we know God? Only in a Trinitarian way.

Matthew 11:27

Perichoresis: the theological term describing the inner relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Karl Barth says: “One cannot speak of God simply by speaking of man in a loud voice.”

Three closing points:

1 – Knowledge of God is achieved only through knowing God in His inner being and relation. i.e. Through knowing Him in a Trinitarian way.

2 – It is through the self-revelation of Christ Jesus that we have an entrance into that closed inner knowing of God. Therefore, Christ is our focus in all theology.

3 – We cannot know God simply by taking human attributes we find admirable and enlarging them to the face of a God. Our terms perfected do not define God, Jesus defines God.

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Trinitarian Theology and Paradox – John Crowder

John CrowderMany theologies engage in analytical debate against one another with the aim of “winning” when scriptures seem to present contradictions. Trinitarianism is more mystical – perhaps postmodern in that sense. Rather than debate, it lives in the dialectical tension of mystery. It is okay with embracing paradox.

For instance, there are a plethora of verses on hell and eternal torment. But there are also a plethora of verses on universal salvation for all mankind. Which of these verses do you throw away?

Be careful taking scissors to your Bible in any direction! Rather than drawing hard lines of debate, Trinitarian theology holds these things in the tension of paradox, keeping hope for mankind without jumping into dogmatic assumptions. We must look at all sides of scripture to arrive at honest answers. But there are places where your logic (even your best theo-logic) will not provide answers.

In addition, the Trinitarian approach is not “causal” or problem oriented. It does not start with problems like “Why aren’t some saved?” Instead, it begins with the person and work of Christ, which was sufficient for all men, and works from there as a starting point.

– John Crowder

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Participating in a Trinitarian Love (Podcast)

imageThis is a message given on April 2nd, 2014 at Hope Tallinn Church, on our participation in the love of the Trinity.

Topics covered: The Parables of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son. Along with the Hypostatic Union of Christ, the love of God, our participation in the Trinity, and the “main thing” in Christianity.

Enjoy!

Download this podcast HERE.

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Real Reconciliation – C. Baxter Kruger (Video)

I can’t begin to tell you how beautiful this video is. I’ve been a fan of C. Baxter Kruger for a while now, and this is perhaps some one of his best lectures.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

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“Jesus Saves! …From God?” – Disgrace To Grace #2

Disgrace To Grace is a series of articles written to debunk doctrines that I believe have hijacked the Good News of God’s outrageous grace. Here’s #2, enjoy!

Saves From GOD?Saved.. From God?

I want to talk about Penal Substitutionary Atonement today (PSA for short). Chances are you’ve probably never heard that term, but I’m sure you’ve been influenced by it.

PSA sounds like this: “God is a judge, and you are on trial. You’re guilty. You’ve sinned; God sentences you to death. He’s about to slam down the hammer, sending you off to eternal punishment, when suddenly Jesus steps in and offers his life in your place. He suffers the wrath of the judge, and you are forgiven your debt.”

PSA is Penal (to punish) Substitution (in our place) Atonement (to bring about redemption). It is a theory 1 of atonement, held popularly in Christianity, that claims Jesus died in order to appease the wrath of God.

Now, I have several issues with this theory of atonement. I don’t plan to address every issue I see here, but I hope to show you, at the very least, a few of the fundamental flaws in this theory.

I do plan on writing much more about this (both articles and eventually books), so this is definitely not the full scope of what I wish to say. But this will serve as a good introduction to why I have called Penal Substitutionary Atonement a “Disgrace to Grace.”

Problems With PSA

Undermining the Trinity:

This view of atonement, I believe, undermines the Trinity. PSA is a theory that is fundamentally anti-Trinitarian.

The Trinity should be central to our way of thinking about God. At no other place is this more vital then the cross, because the cross is essential to the Gospel story.

Within this model you get a very dualistic vision of the Trinity. On one side there is a holy judge demanding punishment, while on the other side there is a loving Jesus appeasing him.

Essentially, PSA teaches that one Member of the Trinity comes to save you from another Member of the Trinity.

This is not only an inconceivable flaw in logic, but a slap in the face to the early church who fought hard in defending the doctrine of the Trinity.

You can’t separate the inseparable Trinity!

PSA goes against Jesus’ union with His Father: “I and my Father are One.” 2 This union between Father, Son, and Spirit must remain central. The will of God is undivided. PSA splits the Trinity, making the will, and action of Jesus separate from that of His Father’s. Which I believe, is catastrophic.

The Dark Side of Jesus:

Did the fall of Adam change us, or did it change God?

trinity-knotObviously, the Garden changed us, not God. So who then did the cross seek to fix? Did the cross fix us, or did it fix God?

If PSA is correct, then the cross dealt with God, not us.

PSA flips the Gospel on its head. If Jesus died in order to meet a legal requirement within the heart of God, instead of fixing us, and our sin, the cross becomes about fixing God. 3

In other words, according to PSA, Jesus died in order to deal with the “dark side of God.” Jesus may be loving towards sinners, but His Father is furious and filled with wrath. When Jesus died, He died to appease the wrath of God. (To deal with His “dark side.”)

No wonder so many Christians love Jesus, but fear His Father! We’ve been taught that God has a dark side. Heck, even Martin Luther admitted that, while he loved Jesus, he wasn’t sure about His Father.

Again, Jesus said, “I and my Father are One.” There is no dark side of God for the cross to appease. Jesus came because of His great love for us, not because of His great wrath!

History, and The Church Fathers:

Additionally, this theory of atonement is actually relatively new. Not a single church father held to this belief. 4 It was first attributed to a man named Anselm in the 1100s. A whole century after the life of Christ!

Nicholas-Icon-Meme-2Early church father Athanasius, for example, seemed to have held primarily to the Christus Victor view. 5 Historically, PSA was only taken seriously after the 12th century. Which is not to say that new theories are automatically wrong, and old theories right. Rather, it is to say that there’s something wrong with a theory of atonement that is disconnected from the early church. (Those who witnessed first hand the life of Jesus.)

It’s not just the early church who reject this theory either. Do you like C.S. Lewis? He didn’t align with PSA. 6

Conclusions

Jesus did not come and die in order to appease the wrath of God. He didn’t come to save you from His angry Father.

Remember? Wasn’t it “For God so loved the world that He gave His Son..” not, “For God so hated the world..”?

The Cross is a revelation of love, not wrath! 

Jesus did not come to save you from the Father. He came to save you from sin, and undo the fall of Adam.

The Cross was the act of the whole Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself..” 7

Now I know this may be a big stretch for some of you, and I understand that, it was for me too. But there are just too many errors in this theory of atonement, and it’s gone unchallenged for long enough. 8

Over the next few weeks I plan on coming back to this topic. Until then, please feel free to leave me any question you may have about this, as well as any objections.

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Notes:

  1. While many assert that this is not a theory, but rather a undeniable fact, there is not enough scripture written to adequately support this view. Many of the brightest minds in Theology consider this to be only a theory. Many hold that while it may be possibly what happened, there’s no certain way of knowing. Therefore, I insist that this is theory, not fact.
  2. John 10:30
  3. For more on this argument, check out Dr. C. Baxter Kruger’s book God is For Us.
  4. Some of Augustine’s writing seem to use similar language as PSA does, which has lead some to conclude that he is the origin for this theory of atonement. However, Anselm was the first to say that Jesus saved us from God. Augustine, and many church fathers, did say that we were saved from the guilt, and penalty of death. The distinction is that one believed to be sent from God through wrath, and another as the natural consequence of sin.
  5. In the next post, I will present some more of the alternate views of atonement for you. Specifically within Christus Victor, Athanasius, and other contemporary theories. So if you don’t know what that is, no worries, next week I’ll give you an overview.
  6. For a great video by Greg Boyd, explaining C.S. Lewis’ take on atonement (a more Christus Victor view as well) click here.
  7. 2 Corinthians 5:19
  8. I plan to write more next week on the scriptural refutes against PSA. (Not all of my arguments are just philosophical.)

18 Brilliant James B. Torrance Quotes

9780830818952I just finished a fantastic book from the Scottish theologian J.B. Torrance, called Worship Community and the Triune God of Grace. Here are 18 of my favorite quotes from the book. Enjoy! —-

The bible is primarily a manual of worship, but too often it has been treated, particularly in Protestantism, as a manual of ethics, of moral values, of religious ideas, or even of sound doctrine. When we see that the worship and mission of the church are the gift of participating through the Holy Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father and the Son’s mission from the Father to the world, that the unique center of the Bible is Jesus Christ, “the apostle and high priest whom we confess” (Heb. 3:1), then the doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the atonement, the ministry of the Spirit.. all unfold from that center. (Pg. 9)

Worship is.. the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father. (Pg. 20)

He lifts us up out of ourselves to participate in the very life and communion of the Godhead, that life of communion for which we were created. (Pg. 22)

[The existential model of worship] Although is stresses the God-humanward movement in Christ, the human-Godward movement is still ours! It emphasizes our faith, our decision, our response in an event theology which short-circuits the vicarious humanity of Christ and belittles union with Christ. (Pg. 29)

It ignores the fact that God has already provided for us that response which alone is acceptable to Him- the offering made for the whole human race in the life, obedience and passion of Jesus Christ. (Pg. 29)

The prime purpose of the incarnation, in the love of God, is to lift us up into the life of communion, of participation in the very Triune life of God. (Pg. 32)

What God is towards us in these relationships, He is in His innermost Being. (Pg. 33)

RevProfJamesBTorranceBut it is not my faith or my decision and conversion, my dying and raising which washes away my sins. It is Christ’s vicarious baptism for us in blood on the cross, His death in which we, by grace, participate through water and the Spirit. (Pg. 34)

We require a better doctrine of God. For too long, our concepts of God have been dominated by Plato, Aristotle, Stoic concepts of God as primarily the giver of natural law, the contract-God of Western jurisprudence who needs to be conditioned into being gracious by law being satisfied, static concepts of “substance,” of God as an unmoved mover and an impassable first clause, etc. We need to recover a biblical understanding of God as the covenant God of grace, not a contract-God, the God who has His loving Being-in-communion, and who has, in the freedom of His love, created us and redeemed us that we might find our true being in communion with Him and one another. (Pg. 35)

In our modern world, in the tradition of Boethius and the Enlightenment, we usually equate the concept of “the person” with that of “the individual.” But in a Christian understanding this is a mistake. Just as the words “father,” “mother,” “husband,” “wife,” “brother,” “sister” are relational terms, so with the word “person.” The human person is someone who finds his or her true being in relation, in love, in communion. (Pg. 39)

He [Jesus] does not appease an angry God to condition Him into being gracious, but in perfect acknowledgement of the holy love of the Father for a sinful world, seals God’s covenant purposes for all humanity by His blood. (Pg. 49)

The covenant between God and humanity is concentrated in His [Jesus’] person. (Pg. 50)

The Christ by whom all things were made is the same Christ who, for us and our salvation, assumed our humanity. In other words, the Son of God who created Adam for sonship and communion and immortality does not abandon His loving purposes for humanity, for every single human person. But in order to redeem humanity and to bring to fulfillment His purpose for humanity, for everyone, He Himself becomes a man that He might fulfill in us His own person God’s purpose of love and obedience and worship. (Pg. 52)

trinity-knotChrist does not heal us as an ordinary doctor might, by standing over us, diagnosing our sickness, prescribing medicine for us to take and then going away, leaving us to get better as we follow His instructions. No, He becomes the patient. He assumes that very humanity which is in need of redemption, and by being anointed by the Spirit in our humanity, by a life of perfect obedience, by dying and rising again, for us, our humanity is healed in Him, in His person. We are not just healed through Christ, because of the work of Christ, but in and through Christ. Person and work must not be separated. (Pg. 53)

Our repentance is thus a response to grace, not a condition of grace. (Pg. 57)

God is always the subject of propitiation, never it’s object. (Pg. 60)

Grace means that God gives Himself to us as God, freely and unconditionally, to be worshiped and adored. But grace also means that God comes to us in Jesus Christ as man, to do for us and in us what we cannot do. (Pg. 65)

We need to give primacy to the question of who over how. (Pg. 93)

(All quotes are the copyright of James B. Torrance, and Inter-Varsity press. 1996)

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It is finished – Dr. C Baxter Kruger

Baxter-Kruger-Photo-1aThe Gospel is the astonishing news that something has happened to the Son of God, and the equally astonishing news that in Him something has happened to the human race. If the whole human race fell into ruin in Adam- a creature, a mere man- what happened to the human race in the death of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God? Paul tells us. When Jesus Christ died, we died. But that is only the beginning. When He rose, we rose. He ascended and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty, the place of honor and love and delight and complete and utter acceptance, and Paul tells us that in HIs ascension we too were lifted up and seated with Him at the Father’s right hand-and there and then welcomed, accepted, embraced forever.

The Gospel is the good news of what became of the Son of God and of what became of us in Him. It is the news that Adam and all of us were crucified with Christ, dead and buried, and on the third day Adam and all of us were quickened with new life and raised with Jesus, and then lifted up to the Father’s right hand in Jesus’ ascension and seated with Christ. 

What happened on the cross? Why did Jesus die? How do we understand the meaning of His death?

The death of Jesus Christ was part of a seamless movement in which the Triune God laid hold of the human race and decisively and sovereignly altered its very existence, cleansing it of all alienation, quickening it with new life and lifting it up into union with the Father, Son, and Spirit.

It is finished. 

(Taken from Dr. C. Baxter Kruger’s brilliant book- Jesus and the Undoing of Adam)

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