Doctrine of God
'Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty'
Trinity is Essential - for CUs, and everyone else.
- Dave Bish is UCCF's South West Team Leader, and he blogs at www.thebluefish.org . View all resources by Dave Bish
If you're a blogger, get involved by making March 'Trinity Month' on your blog. Let us know, and we'll tell all our followers about it!
It's not uncommon today for someone to suggest that Christians, Muslims, Atheists and others mean the same thing when they use the word "God".
John Piper offers a really helpful illustration here Response to A Common Word, where he suggests (around 5 minutes into the video) that it's like two old friends arguing about someone they went to University with 30 years previously.
Someone comes up and says, "Why don't you look in the Yearbook"
And they open it up and realise that they weren't talking about the same person.
Jesus is the Yearbook. (Does it work if we say Facebook?)
Look at Jesus and ask, is that who you mean by God?
And if not then we're talking about a different God. Which is a great basis for talking, but the conversation proceeds differently than trying to squeeze everyone’s different ideas into the word "God".
Trinity is essential to conversations
This is the first reason why a Christian Union needs some clarity on the Trinity.
If a CU, embedded in the life of a University only believes in and articulates a vague belief in “God”, they’ll have nothing to say to the growing numbers of Muslims and those of other faiths, and they’ll be stumped by the ‘New Atheists’ who don’t believe in “God”.
The God question gives us the opportunity to stand up and say “Atheists are right”.
They’re right to hate the kind of god they’ve heard of. The lonely dictator that the late Christopher Hitchins and others raged against, who made them not atheists so much as anti-theists.
In an interview Hitchins said:
“The existence of god would be a bad thing. It would be rather awful it was true. If there was a permanent total round-the clock divine supervision and invigilation of what you do, you would never have a waking or sleeping moment when you weren’t being watched and controlled and supervised by some celestial entity from the moment of your conception to the moment of your death. It would be like living in North Korea.”
And any Christian would be inclined to agree.
This powerful god who lords it over people isn’t a god we’d want to believe in. And we don’t.
It’s worth asking someone who is an atheist, “tell me about the god you don’t believe in”, because it gives us the opportunity to agree and say, can I tell you about the God I know when I know Jesus.
He loved us and sent his Son.
That’s worth talking about.
That’s better than any other god you’ve ever heard of.
Trinity is Essential to Community
It’s not just for our conversations with people that a Christian Union, or a church, needs clear belief in the Triune God. We become like who we worship, as the Psalmist said. Those who believe in the divine dictator will become like his thought-police: suspicious, harsh, cold and picky.
A look in the mirror can offer a disturbing insight into which kind of god we do believe in.
A people who believe in the god Hitchins hated will surely be the most pious and holier-than-thou people on campus.
Who wants to join with a mean-spirited crowd?
Who wants to be crushed in the stampede of the religious?
Those who follow a god who isn’t personal won’t be personable.
They won’t welcome.
Letting this god of the philosophers, the god Hitchins hated, be smuggled into our Christianity makes fresh fruit turn to ash in your mouth.
The one positive is that the non-Triune crowd probably don’t actually do much evangelism because the world out there is unfriendly and uninteresting, but when they do occasionally pop out it’ll be to have a pop at people, to prove them wrong and leave them in the gutter.
I exaggerate for effect but most of us have been there.
By striking contrast a people who know themselves to be those who participate in the divine life, who know that Jesus has caught them up into the love of the Father and the Spirit through his self-giving death in their place, will be humbled and broken people.
Welcomed people who welcome others.
People who’ve received kindness, who are kind to others.
A people who know they’ve failed royally, and don’t pretend otherwise.
A people defined by Jesus rather than themselves.
Trinity people are gospel people.
People who become like their god, like The Triune God, become outgoing and self-giving.
Not extrovert and perfect, but generous and outreaching, drawing others into the kind of community that looks like the life of the Triune God.
If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Love that can handle diversity of ethnicity, diversity of cultures, diversity on ‘secondary’ matters of doctrine.
Love that unites when fragmentation would be possible.
Love, like that of the Triune God, is self-giving rather than imposing its own agenda on others.
Love that pays the cost of unity, even to death and beyond.
Trinity is essential to Christianity
Christians say God is who you know when you know Jesus.
Jesus introduces us to the Triune God.
Only the Son knows the Father, and anyone to whom the Son makes him known.
Start somewhere else and you end up somewhere else.
If the Father did not send his Son in the power of the Spirit to bring us home into the life of God then we have no gospel, we have no Christianity. No other god is worth knowing or telling about.
“Without the gospel everything is useless and vain”, as John Calvin put it. “Seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.”
Trinity is gospel.
Or in the immortal words of Athanasius’ creed: the saved are those who hold to Trinity.
Strong stuff, but what is salvation if not entering into the life of the Triune God?
What else is a Christian but someone who knows this God?
Christianity isn’t a ticket to heaven.
Christianity is what happens when you’re joined with Jesus and step inside his life.
Do you need to be able to articulate that fully? No – but it’s not exactly complicated, it’s beautiful.
Just look at Jesus.
More on Trinity