Three persons, all one holy, eternal God. Yet each distinct - not merely a way to describe different roles or functions of a single person.
This is the orthodox definition of the Trinity, hammered out by the Church over centuries of studying the Bible.
Kevin DeYoung calls this "the most important doctrine you never think about." Our understanding of God is foundational to our faith - to how we relate to Him as we live as Christians. Why is the Trinity important?
I think the most basic implication of the Trinity is that it completely blows out of the water any idea that God needs us. Within the trinity, God has a knowledge of and a love for Himself that is perfect and complete. He did not create mankind because He needed someone to know and love Him. He is secure in Himself forever. More than that, God saves us Himself - it is all His work. Only God Himself could satisfy His need for justice. Christ is not a good man who worked his way to righteousness with God - He is God Himself in skin among us.
At the same time, the relationship within the Trinity also informs the way we relate to others. God is love, and learning love from Him, we are called to live with one another in love.
DeYoung points out that Christianity, seeking to reflect a God who is a unity of diverse Persons, contrasts beautifully with two worldviews that compete with it today across the world: postmodernism (which allows for a diversity which is meaningless and irreconcilable) and Islam (which prescribes unity of language, culture, and thought).
The Father's idea of Himself is so perfect that it has being as a Person. This is the Son, eternally begotten of the Father. The Father and the Son have a love for each other so perfect that it has being as a Person. This is the Holy Spirit.
If that doesn't spark your brain, i don't know what will.
So what do you think? What do you believe about the Trinity? Does it even matter?
(Japanese): small cute things crocheted in the round. My other mother very patiently showed me the basic crochet stitches. I know myself too well to begin a large-scale, long-term project, so i have had fun with amigurumi. I completed Ningyu-chan over three days, using this pattern as a base (I modified it to suit myself).
Here is Ningyu-chan. I single-crocheted her head, body, and arms separately, then sewed them together. You can see where i messed up a little joining her arm to her body.
Since Ningyu-chan is a mermaid, i thought it would be fun to make her a tail. I started at the waist and made it up as i crocheted down, using half-double crochet (i strung pony beads onto the yarn for a more fishy look).
It's been a pretty snowy winter in Tennessee. On the way to the obligatory nurse check-in this morning, i felt like we were driving through a Christmas snowglobe -- the way the morning was glittering off the white snow, the way the tall spikes of grass were crusted with ice, like rock-candy or crystal carvings. Do you ever feel that you are living on top of a faerytale -- that there is some great magic buried underneath the hills you walk on, waiting its time to burst out in a great shining flower of magic and adventure?
Anyway, the good thing about winter in Tennessee -- as compared to winter in, say, IOWA -- is that it never gets so cold you can't enjoy being cold. We are in the 20s (that's ABOVE zero!), and have gotten more snow in the past few days than we have for several years. I can't remember the last time i played outside in the snow. I feel like a little kid -- a decorous walk across the drive to my grandparents' turns into a series of snowbunny hops. Somehow i managed to leave dinosaur footprints in my path, and there are bootprints spelling out a lopsided "EMILY <3 DENNIS" on the hill behind our house.
My sisters were a little more creative. They came up with a Jane Austen snow-woman:
The joke in my family is that every plan to read the whole Bible always falls apart right around the middle of Leviticus. One long book of complicated descriptions of sacrifices, rituals, cultural rules that don't really seem applicable. I know "ALL of Scripture is God-breathed, useful ... " etc, but that doesn't make Leviticus any less boring.
Guess what book i've reached in my "read through the Bible in a year" plan?
I spent this morning reading my Bible's introduction to Leviticus. Possibly this was just a strategy on my part to put off actually reading Leviticus.
But guess what? The Reformation Study Bible actually has me looking forward to reading the book. Well, convinced that it's worthwhile, anyway, and committed to getting through it all again. On the off chance that some of y'all don't have the RSB (the translation is accurate and flowing, the contextual and theological notes are awesome, it weighs 422 pounds, you should get one), here's why i actually want to read Leviticus.
All the cultural prescriptions in Leviticus reflect the concepts and values that are foundational to God's people, Israel. These same ideas inform New Testament writers - especially their understanding of sin, sacrifice, and atonement. Leviticus teaches us to appreciate Christ's work of atonement.
As i read, i'm going to be looking for these main themes:
God's presence among His people. This is what Christ secured for us perfectly - the amazing gift of being able to enjoy God's presence.
Holiness. We are called to bear God's image in everything we do. "You shall be holy, as I am holy" (Lev. 11:45)
Atonement through Sacrifice. If God is holy, and we are not, we're in trouble. Yet God sacrificed his Son to satisfy his holiness and secure us into a relationship with himself. Leviticus should be a great place to see God's character, and his relationship with unholy people, depicted.
This week I had the great privilege to pray with a friend who shared a prayer from Beth Moore's book, So Long Insecurity. I haven't read the book, but that prayer was intense. We were there before God's throne, confessing our deepest fears -- the secret failures to believe His promises to us.
Where does insecurity come from? Why do I protect myself from relationships? Why am I afraid to be known? Why am I so afraid of conflict?
Satan sitting on my shoulder with a pocket mirror, showing me my own face. I know who I am. I don't deserve to be loved. I don't deserve to be happy.
Thomas Merton writes, "The beginning of the fight against hatred, the basic Christian answer to hatred, is not the commandment to love, but what must necessarily come before in order to make the commandment bearable and comprehensible. It is a prior commandment, to believe. The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved. The faith that one is loved by God. That faith that one is loved by God although unworthy--or rather, irrespective of one's worth!
"In the true Christian vision of God's love, the idea of worthiness loses its significance. Revelation of the mercy of God makes the whole problem of worthiness something almost laughable: the discovery that worthiness is of no special consequence (since no one could ever, by himself, be worthy to be loved with such a love) is a true liberation of spirit. And until this discovery is made, until this liberation has been brought about by the divine mercy, man is imprisoned in hate.
"Humanistic love will not serve. As long as we believe that we hate no one, that we are merciful, that we are kind by our very nature, we deceive ourselves; our hatred is merely smoldering under the gray ashes of complacent optimism. We are apparently at peace with everyone because we think we are worthy. That is to say we have lost the capacity to face the question of unworthiness at all. But when we are delivered by the mercy of God the question no longer has a meaning." (New Seeds of Contemplation)