No Tug of Will

In fullness of time

the Spirit overshadows,

the love of the Father descends

and the Son becomes human,

for all to see, to touch, to hear, to know God:

Father, Son, Spirit.

Three-in-one; one-in-three.

Communion, diverse unity.

“My Beloved,” the Father says to the Son,

The Spirit’s wingbeat thrums love,

And the Son, close to the heart of God, fully lives,

As truly human

And truly God.

God-come-down

bears humanity up.

Re-union in the one human-divine person of the Son,

Who is filled by Spirit,

and Loved full by Father.

The redemption of humanity a trinitarian work:

One will

one love

one hope for all the throbbing world

In fullness of time fulfilled.

I wrote the above poem in response to all the readings on the Trinity I’ve done this quarter (I’m very, very grateful, Dr. Nordling). This past week I read part of A More Profound Alleluia. Here’s some great stuff from it (p. 7-8): “The doctrine of the Trinity means that God is not different from what we see in Jesus. …Jesus is a faithful witness, a transparent window into divine life. …Trinitiarian doctrine of God sturdily reinforces our understanding of God’s lavish grace … toward us. … The Triune God not only models salvation but accomplishes it. … Trinitarian theology stresses that God’s life is one of abundant communion, a kind of fellowship … that overflows to include us.”

 

Advertisements

More thoughts on the Trinity

leaning tower

THOUGHT 1

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” (from the Nicene Creed)

We look for … the life of the world to come. There is, obviously, a future sense to this, a final resolution brought about by Jesus’ return. There is a “not yet,” as our world now is not as it will be when the King has come. Right now our world operates at a tilt. The Cornerstone is present (Mark 12:10-11), but our world is shifted off-kilter, like the leaning tower of Pisa. Since the entire thing is at a slant, we don’t even realize we’ve adjusted to it. It feels natural, but this walking at a slant to the Cornerstone wears on us. We, the holy catholic and apostolic Church, baptized by and in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, can walk straight NOW, can walk and move and have our very being in the Cornerstone, made straight by the Cornerstone. We’ve been enlivened by the Spirit, moved from death to life. Even though the world around us lives at a slant to eternal reality, we can live eternal reality now—the eternal reality that says love is preeminent, that stuff and accolades and success won’t last, that says love of God and neighbor is the only measure that matters, that values community and mutual submission rather than individual accomplishment, that views all people as made in the image of God… Living eternal life now isn’t easy; everything around us is going to make us feel as if we are the ones walking through life tilted. But Jesus said that when we do what he told us and act on his words—loving our enemies, living with extreme generosity, refraining from judgment and condemnation…–we are like a man who has built his house on a rock (Luke 6:46-49). It’s straight and sturdy, and will not be shaken. Let’s look for and live the life of the world to come.

 

b7755749-434d-4288-a1e9-806b6ee57074_1.6e6b8ba050dc9d5a2d8ef42b12758831

Pair of ducks=paradox 🙂 

THOUGHT 2

The many paradoxes of Christianity (Triune God, hypostatic union of Jesus, free will and foreknowledge…) are not as paradoxical as they seem to us. In Trinity Matters, Dancause uses this illustration to picture our limited understanding. Imagine a cone passing through a 2-dimensional world. Though the cone is 3-dimensional, as it passes through this world, it will only be able to viewed as 2-dimensional. If the cone passes through vertically, it will be seen as a circle of varying sizes. But if it passes through on its side, it will be seen as a trying of varying sizes. It will appear to be two completely different things. Yet it is one, fully integrated shape. The issue is not the shape; it is the limited view of those who live in the 2-dimensional world. Same with us and God. The issue is not contradiction within God. The issue is our limited and broken viewpoint.

He writes of is as “’flat’ ways of looking at the same ‘extra dimensional’ thing. The circle and the triangle contradict each other at one level, but on a higher level, as with the example of the cone, they actually define each other as one entity.”

The more I study God and Scripture, the more I realize my world is one little piece on the edge of a vast puzzle that stretches far, far beyond in all directions! This relational, 3-in-one/1-in-3 God extending relationship to all he has created will blow my mind—and my heart—whenever I let him, and I think in Kingdom come I will constantly be saying “Wow!” (location 1958 in Kindle edition)

THOUGHT 3

I confess that I used to think of the Incarnation as the Son being sent off to a horrific kind of boot camp (or worse). It grieved the Father and the Spirit, but it was necessary. I also thought of the Son as experiencing this all alone and thus carrying, for all eternity afterward, this experience and trauma that the Father and Spirit couldn’t identify with. I was definitely believing in some subordination within the Trinity—along with some other unorthodox ideas (maybe tri-theism?).

Karl Barth helps me with this. “Barth describes incarnation as the Son of God’s journey into a far land. …the Son of God effects reconciliation since the journey is that of God himself revealed in the Son. ‘…the Son’s journey is God’s own journey and that the Son’s self-humiliation in birth, life, and death is an expression of God’s transcendence. God is exalted in the humility of the Son.’” (p. 128 of The Doctrine of God by Veli-Matti Karkkainen).

Are there any ways you’ve discovered you’ve thought wrongly about God?

 

And even more thoughts on the Trinity–clearly entire books have been written on this!

theosisandjustification

This painting goes with thought 2. It’s an Eastern Orthodox icon depicting the theosis of the saints. What is “theosis”? See THOUGHT 2 below.

THOUGHT 1: “To really live”

What does it mean to really live? A religious scholar asked Jesus a similar question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” If I were to put “eternal life” in my own words, I would think of it as life that is not bound by a particular time or season or set of circumstances but is forever life, full and rich and deep forever.

Well, Jesus turns the question back on this scholar and asks if he can find the answer in the Law of Moses. The man can. He answers, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus tells him he answered correctly and then says, “(D)o this, and you will live.”

So this is life, eternal life: loving God (with my entire being) and loving neighbor as myself. So simple, yet so terribly difficult for me to do. Impossible for me to do this.

But I am not asked to do this and then left powerless to actually do it.

The Nicene Creed refers to the Spirit of God as the “giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son…” Jesus, immediately after he was resurrected and reunited with his followers, breathed on them. This is the same breathing found in Genesis, when God “breathed” into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life and in Ezekiel when the breath of God causes the bleached bones to live again!

I sometimes feel like a clod of dirt or like a pile of dry, dusty bones. I am not enlivened with the love of God and neighbor. I find myself, like the religious scholar, asking, “And who is my neighbor?” and then shaking my head at my inability to love the person God points out to me.

But I have been breathed on! I have been given the gift of the Spirit by the Father and the Son, and the Spirit “gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6) to me—fills me with love for God and neighbor! New Testament scholar Gerald Hawthorne wrote, “The significance of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus extends to his followers in all of the little and the big things of their existences. … Jesus has freely and lavishly given (the Spirit) to those who would be his disciples today!”*

To live eternal life right here, right now—to live like Jesus among and with all people! Give us life, Holy Spirit, to live like that!

*The Presence and the Power by Gerald Hawthorne, p. 242. Also found on Amazon.com.

 

THOUGHT 2: “Justification by faith AND becoming like God”

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen describes the differences between the Eastern and Western wings of the church in the third century in this way: “The Eastern tradition expressed itself in Greek, and its distinctive doctrine of salvation was conveyed in the terms of deification or divinization (from the Greek term theosis, “denoting God”), which means “becoming like God.” The Western wing of the church, with its center in Antioch, used Latin and focused primarily on moral obedience and justification by faith.”*

That fascinates me! I was raised in a church culture that was very focused on justification by faith and moral obedience, so the idea of having my Christian faith expressed as “becoming like God”—that through Christ’s work and the Father’s love and the Spirit’s presence/power, I am being made more and more like God (2 Peter 1:4)—this still feels like a very strange thing but also a beautiful thing! Does anyone else identify with this?

*The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction, p.72

I found a couple of helpful blog posts when I was googling “theosis.” I’m including the links here in case anyone would want to explore further. Both are very readable.

https://www.orthodoxroad.com/understanding-theosis/

https://interruptingthesilence.com/2011/07/09/theosis-the-human-vocation/

 

THOUGHT 3: Three reading suggestions on the Trinity

I am reading Trinity Matters: In Faith, Work, & Love (…and even theology) by Steve Dancause right now. If you are at all interested in reading about the Trinity, I highly recommend Dancause’s book, along with Darrell Johnson’s Experiencing the Trinity and Michael Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity. All are readable, filled with joy, and concerned with concrete implications and applications for followers of Jesus—both individually and corporately.

Here are just a few quotes from the first few pages of Dancause’s book to whet your appetite.

“If we don’t deep down trust that Jesus is God alongside the Father, then why would we obey his commands? For example, why would we love our enemies—an extremely difficult thing to do—when it is easier to model our treatment of enemies on Old Testament passages that we find easier? And if we don’t believe that the Holy Spirit is God alongside the Father and the Son, then why would we submit to the Spirit’s desire to transform us?”(230/3415, Kindle edition)

“The Church faces catastrophic decline in the developed West. Even in areas where some churches seem to be thriving, our general reputation is woeful. Why? Because we (the Church in Western society as a whole) don’t follow the teachings of Jesus as paramount. We prefer sectarian politics, sacred tribalism, legalism, academic philosophy, or a health-and-wealth gospel over a radical faith in Jesus who is God and perfectly reveals God’s character. We have settled for weak views of the Trinity.” (238/3415)

“If we have seen the Father, it is because we have seen him through the Son, and if we have received the Holy Spirit, it is through the faith of, and our faith in, the Son. There is simply no better place to find God than in Jesus. In Jesus, we are invited into the life of the triune God who exists as an eternal act of perfect love. In Jesus we see clearly not only what God looks like, but also what true humanity looks like. Since Jesus is fully human, sin, separation, and death no longer define human nature for those who are in Christ. Jesus is indeed more human than we are opening the way for us to live into our own human fullness.” (292)

 

#trinityclassns

Similes made in the image

screen shot 2019-01-28 at 11.25.11 am

NOTE: I am taking a course on the Trinity at Northern Seminary right now, & our assignments are Instagram posts with a picture and reflections/questions on our readings. I’m putting some of them here on the blog. If you would like to read posts from other members of this class, just search the hashtag #trinityclassNS on Instagram.

POST 1

“Made in the image of God but marred through sin, man is renewed in Jesus Christ who is the image of God in which man was first formed!” from Our Triune God by Peter Toon, p. 168

Christ IS the image of God. We are made IN the image of God. Using the language of literature, I am tempted to say Christ is the metaphor of God, but I cannot, for a metaphor is a comparison of two unlike things, and Christ is not comparison but IS God, one with the Father and Spirit in indescribable ways, yet also a person distinct from the Father and the Spirit. Yet Christ, like the very best metaphors, illuminates and makes clear an image that is hidden or unknown. Christ IS the image of God—revealed to us.

Can I say, though, that we humans are similes? I think so. Similes, like metaphors, compare two unlike things, but they are one step further removed, using the words “like” or “as” to make the comparison. A simile, like a metaphor, can illuminate an idea, but a bad simile can actually interfere with understanding an idea. As similes of God, we are capable of great good because of our being made in the image of our Creator. But since we are inept similes, the great capabilities for good have been damaged so that we are also capable of and prone to incredibly great harm. It is only in Jesus that the image can be renewed/made new.

How is this renewal worked out in our lives?

The Spirit, “from within the Christians’ own lives makes response to Jesus and the Father” (126, quote from Michael Ramsey). We come to know, through the Spirit’s work within us, the Father as “our Father”/“Abba” and Jesus as Lord and King. We become renewed in our identity as beloved children of God the Father and empowered citizens of the great, good Lord of the universe. And as this renewed identity works deeper into our souls, we are changed/healed/repaired, bit by bit, and we, as similes, become clear and helpful to those who “read” us so that we contribute to rather than hinder our readers’ understanding of God.

*the photo above is of a webpage with 56 bad and good similes found in high school student papers. Here’s the link (https://dysonology.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/56-bestworst-similes-used-in-high-school-exams/) so you can read all 56 of them if you want!

Post 2

The essay “God Crucified” by Richard Bauckham has SO much richness in it! In this post I’ll simply be pasting in some favorite quotes from the book and then closing with a question of my own.

“Jesus, the New Testament (NT) writers are saying, belongs inherently to who God is” (32). The Servant, seen in the Old Testament book of Isaiah “…belongs to the identity of the unique God. This God is not only the high and lofty one who reigns from his throne in the high and holy place; he also abases himself to the condition of the crushed and the lowly (Isa. 57:15)” (36). “(Christ’s) humiliation belongs to the identity of God as truly as his exaltation does. The identity of God—who God is—is revealed as much in self-abasement and service as it is in exaltation and rule. The God who is high can also be low, because God is God not in seeking his own advantage but in self-giving. His self-giving in abasement and service ensures that his sovereignty over all things is also a form of his self-giving. Only the Servant can also be the Lord. Only the Servant who is also the Lord receives the recognition of his lordship—the acknowledgement of his unique deity—from the whole creation” (45). “These (the exaltation and humiliation revealing God—being his identity) are not contradictions because God is self-giving love.. This is the meaning of the Johannine paradox that Jesus is exalted and glorified on the cross.” “In this act of self-giving God is most truly himself and defines himself for the world” (51).

My question: How do the implications of God being a Servant work out in the nitty-gritty of my life? What is one relationship or situation in my life in which I need to choose humility, choose to listen rather than speak, choose to not prove myself, choose to serve? #trinityclassNS