Friday, March 4, 2011

Treasuring the Trinity

I was blessed a few weeks ago to teach a two week lesson to the adult Bible class at church about the Trinity.  You can listen to recordings of it on the church web site.  The notes from which I spoke are below.

 Week One:

I.      Pray!

II.   Feel free to interrupt!

III.Is the Trinity really THAT important?

A.   Youcef Nadarkhani – 10-12-09

1.     Would he die for Jesus, and yet go to hell simply for a wrong belief about the Trinity?

B.   Brian’s family

1.     Should they have been excluded from the Christian homeschooling group?

C.   A very popular book…

1.     “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood.”

2.     [W]e have no concept of final authority among us, only unity. We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command ... What you're seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power. We don't need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us.

D.   James White – PCD

1.     Likewise, I don’t believe it is proper to be led in worship by someone who worships a different God than I do and who specifically denies the truth of the Triune existence of God.”

E.   Why should something so hard to define (much less understand) be a dividing line?

F.    Does belief in the Trinity actually make any difference in our…

1.     worship?

2.     daily conduct?

3.     evangelism?

4.     response to suffering?

G.  Won’t exhaustively ‘prove’ Trinity is Biblical

H.   Will prove it is important

IV.           Can you define the Trinity?

One indivisible being who is God (what)
(more than 1 god)
Three persons (who’s)
Islam, OP
Modalism (1 person, 3 manifestations, roles, masks)
Co-equal and co-eternal (ontological)
LDS, Islam, JW, OP
Arianism (Jesus < God)
Distinct roles and hierarchy (economic/functional)

A.   Why doesn’t the Trinity violate the law of non-contradiction? Same time, but not same sense—for both superiority and number.

V.  Old Testament references

A.   Did people in the OT know about the Trinity?

1.     The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before. The mystery of the Trinity is not revealed in the Old Testament; but the mystery of the Trinity underlies the Old Testament revelation, and here and there almost comes into view. Thus the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but only perfected, extended and enlarged.  --  BB Warfield

B.   Isaiah 45:5-6

1.     Which of the above does this support? (#1)

2.     If # 1 were not true, how would these verses have been written?

3.     What practical impact would polytheism have on our lives?

a)    Insecurity

b)    Desire to become a god  

C.   Genesis 1:26

1.     Which of the above does it support? (#2)

2.     Could God be using the ‘royal plural’?

3.     Could God be speaking to the angels?

4.     If #2 were not true, how would this verse have been written?

5.     What practical impact would this unitarianism have on our lives?

a)    Why plural used only here in creation?

b)    We would become non-relational.  Every time someone marries, makes a friend, hugs a child, or attends church, he is demonstrating the fact that we are made in the likeness of God. – GotQuestions

D.   Psalm 45:6-7

1.     Which of the above does this support? (# 2 (God), 3? (forever), 4 (anointed) )

2.     What do we learn from this verse about the Father’s relationship to the Son?

a)    F is functionally superior to S

b)    F honors S’s righteousness

c)     S gladly receives F’s anointing

3.     What would happen to the meaning of these verses if there were only 1 person in the Trinity?

a)    No submission

b)    No joy

4.     Study also Psalms 2 and 110

VI.           New Testament

A.   Why more talk of Trinity in NT than OT?

1.     “As long as we look at God on the outside, we shall never see beyond his unity; for, as the Cappadocian Fathers and Augustine realized, the external works of the Trinity are undivided…. This means that an outside observer will never detect the inner reality of God, and will never enter the communion with him which is promised to us in Christ.  Jews may recognize God’s existence and know his law, but without Christ they cannot penetrate the mystery of that divine fellowship which Christians call the Holy Trinity.”  (Bray, 119)

B.   But why is Trinity never outright “taught”?

1.     We cannot speak of the doctrine of the Trinity, therefore, if we study exactness of speech, as revealed in the New Testament, any more than we can speak of it as revealed in the Old Testament. The Old Testament was written before its revelation; the New Testament after it. The revelation itself was made not in word but in deed. It was made in the incarnation of God the Son, and the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit. The relation of the two Testaments to this revelation is in the one case that of preparation for it, and in the other that of product of it. The revelation itself is embodied just in Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is as much as to say that the revelation of the Trinity was incidental to, and the inevitable effect of, the accomplishment of redemption. It was in the coming of the Son of God in the likeness of sinful flesh to offer Himself a sacrifice for sin; and in the coming of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment, that the Trinity of Persons in the Unity of the Godhead was once for all revealed to men. Those who knew God the Father, who loved them and gave His own Son to die for them; and the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved them and delivered Himself up an offering and sacrifice for them; and the Spirit of Grace, who loved them and dwelt within them a power not themselves, making for righteousness, knew the Triune God and could not think or speak of God otherwise than as triune… We may understand also, however, from the same central fact, why it is that the doctrine of the Trinity lies in the New Testament rather in the form of allusions than in express teaching, why it is rather everywhere presupposed, coming only here and there into incidental expression, than formally inculcated. It is because the revelation, having been made in the actual occurrences of redemption, was already the common property of all Christian hearts. In speaking and writing to one another, Christians, therefore, rather spoke out of their common Trinitarian consciousness, and reminded one another of their common fund of belief, than instructed one another in what was already the common property of all.  – BB Warfield

C.   Baptism of Jesus – Mt. 3:16,17; Mk 1:10-11; John 1:32-34

1.     Which of the above does this support? (2, 4)

2.     What do we learn from this verse about the Father’s relationship to the Son?

a)    Functionally superior

b)    Honors Son

c)     Wants others to honor Him

3.     What do we learn about the relationship of the Spirit to the Father and Son?

a)    Sent by the Father

b)    Validates the Son

c)     Son baptizes others in Spirit   

Week Two:

I.      Pray

II.   Welcome interruptions


A.   4 Aspects of Trinity

B.   OT/NT – new covenant embodied in Jesus and Holy Spirit

IV.           Any insights / spottings of the Trinity in your reading this week?

A.   Jude 20-21

Why is the Trinity important to apologetics? Well, what happens when unitarianism (the view that God is merely one) is substituted for Trinitarianism? One result is that the God so defined tends to lose definition and the marks of personality. In the early centuries of the Christian era, the Gnostics, the Arians, and the Neoplatonists worshipped a non-Trinitarian God. That God was a pure oneness, with no plurality of any kind. But one what? A unity of what?…
Anti-Trinitarianism always has that effect. It leads to a “wholly other” God, rather than a God who is transcendent in the biblical sense. Paradoxically, at the same time, it leads to a God who is relative to the world, rather than the sovereign Lord of Scripture. It leads to a blank “One” rather than the absolute personality of the Bible. It makes the Creator-creature distinction a difference in degree rather than a difference of being.
John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God (P&R, 1994), 47-48.

V.  A few more NT passages:

A.   Heb 1:10-12 (Psalm 102:23-27)

1.     Which of the 4 does this passage support? (#3)

B.   The uniqueness of John (esp. 14-17)

C.   John 16:5-15

1.     Which of the 4 does this passage support? (#2, #3, #4)

2.     If # 2 were not true, how would this passage read?  (I’m coming back as a spirit)

3.     If # 4 were not true, how would this passage read? (“I think the HS is planning to come.”) 

VI.           Trinity and the Atonement

A.   Gethsemane – Matt 26:39,42,53

1.     Which of the 4 points does this support? (#2, #3, #4)

2.     If # 2 were not true, how would these verses read? (Jesus talking to himself)

3.     If # 3 were not true, how would they read? (“OK, if You insist…”)

4.     If # 4 were not true, how would they read? (“Why talk to Dad at all about this?”)

B.   My God, My God – Mt 27:46

1.     Which of the four does v.46 support? (#2)

2.     If # 2 were not true, how would this verse have been written?

3.     Was Jesus really forsaken?

4.     Who killed Jesus?

5.     What is the essence of hell?

This interpretation is depicted in The Shack (95,96) where “Papa” is seen has having the scars of the crucifixion on “her” wrists. “Papa” speaks of the cross and says, “We were there together.” In other words, the Father suffered with Jesus, in Jesus, on the cross. This is an ancient heresy called “Patripassianism” from the Latin meaning “the Father suffers.” … If the Father suffers in or with Jesus, then a distorted picture of God’s wrath emerges. The essence of Jesus’ suffering was His judicial separation from God, His tasting of death, His experience of hell. Separation from His Father under wrath is what the Son suffered so that we would not be cast away from the presence of the Lord into eternal separation from Him under His wrath in hell. Such a distorted view of God’s wrath born for us by Jesus on the cross is the result of Young’s deficient view of the Fall, as mentioned earlier. By not giving due emphasis to God’s righteousness and justice as our Law Giver and Judge, Young empties the curse that Jesus bore on the tree of its judicial essence. Jesus bore God’s wrath, which entailed (how can we conceive of it?) His separation from His Father, a cup which Jesus drank, a suffering which Jesus bore and by that atoning work, is the basis upon which God now reconciles us to Himself.  – Alan Dunn   

6.     R.C. Sproul – only a sinless one could rightly ask ‘why have You forsaken Me?’ –the rest of us should only say, ‘why haven’t You forsaken me?”!

C.   Into Your Hands… Luke 23:46

1.     Which of the four does v.46 support? (#2, #4)

2.     If # 2 were not true, how would this verse read? (“I’m gonna resurrect myself”)

3.     If # 4 were not true, how would this verse read? (“See you soon buddy!”)  

D.   John 3:16 and Romans 8:32

1.     Which of the 4 do these support? (#2, #3, #4)

2.     If # 2 were not true, what would they say? (God gave Himself)

3.     If # 3 were not true, what would they say? (God gave a really good created being)

4.     If #4 were not true, what would they say? (God gave His brother)

5.     How do each of these deny the depth of God’s gift? (Son-giving—the ultimate act of love)

VII.        Trinity and practice

A.   Relationships

1.     The Shack. “Young goes so far as to suggest that submission is inherently evil—that it is possible only where there is sin. "You humans are so lost and damaged that to you it is almost incomprehensible that relationship could exist apart from hierarchy. So you think that God must relate inside a hierarchy like you do. But we do not” (124). Scripture says otherwise and it says so clearly. “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3)… When we properly understand the hierarchy within the Godhead we understand that hierarchy and submission are not products of sin but are present even within the most perfect relationship. This teaches us that we may and must submit in our human relationships and that we can do so without sin. The trinitarian relationship is a model to us of how we honor God by submitting to Him and to the authorities He has seen fit to place over us.  -- Tim Challies

B.   Worship

1.     Prayers

a)    Should we only pray to God generically?

b)    Can we pray to Son, H.S.?

(1)  Prayer to Jesus – Acts 7:59; 1 Cor. 1:2, John 14:14
(2)  Holy Spirit – Acts 13:2; Acts 5:3
(3)  Why is Father emphasized? 

2.     Music

Professor Lester Ruth of Asbury Seminary recently completed a fascinating study into the usage of Trinitarian worship songs in the U.S. church between the years of 1989 and 2004. He identifies the seventy-two most used worship songs over that period, as documented by CCLI, and studies their content, particularly with a view to assessing their Trinitarian content. Professor Ruth discovered that none of these seventy-two songs explicitly refers to the Trinity or the triune nature of God, per se. And, even more to the point, only three of the songs explicitly refer to, or name, all three Persons of the Trinity. In particular, very few of them specifically name God the Father or the Holy Spirit. These shocking findings should be a wake-up call to songwriters and service planners everywhere. – Matt Redman

a)    Doxology – lists all 3

b)    Holy, Holy, Holy “God in 3 Persons, Blessed Trinity”

c)     All Creatures of Our God and King… “Praise, praise the Father, Praise the Son, And praise the Spirit, Three in One!”

d)    Praise Ye the Triune God

Praise ye the Father for His lovingkindness;
Tenderly cares He for His erring children;
Praise Him, ye angels, praise Him in the heavens,
Praise ye Jehovah!
Praise ye the Savior—great is His compassion;
Graciously cares He for His chosen people;
Young men and maidens, older folks and children,
Praise ye the Savior!
Praise ye the Spirit, Comforter of Israel,
Sent of the Father and the Son to bless us;
Praise ye the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Praise ye the Triune God!

e)     Come Thou Almighty King

1.      Come, thou almighty King,
        help us thy name to sing,
        help us to praise!
        Father all glorious,
        o'er all victorious,
        come and reign over us, Ancient of Days!
2.      Come, thou incarnate Word,
        gird on thy mighty sword,
        our prayer attend!
        Come, and thy people bless,
        and give thy word success,
        Spirit of holiness, on us descend!
3.      Come, holy Comforter,
        thy sacred witness bear
        in this glad hour.
        Thou who almighty art,
        now rule in every heart,
        and ne'er from us depart, Spirit of power!
4.      To thee, great One in Three,
        eternal praises be,
        hence, evermore.
        Thy sovereign majesty
        may we in glory see,
        and to eternity love and adore!

f)      Eternal Father Strong to Save

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm doth bind the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Saviour, whose almighty word
The winds and waves submissive heard,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep
And calm amid its rage didst sleep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Sacred Spirit, who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
Who badd'st its angry tumult cease,
And gavest light and life and peace:
O hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Trinity of love and pow'r,
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
And ever let there rise to thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

With no naming of the Trinity and no remembrance of the Trinity’s activity, another thing happens in these songs:  the songs do not contemplate worship as participation in the dynamics between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[7]  The songs tend to objectify God as the recipient of our worship activity.  If God seems passive in these songs, we are not.  Humans usually get the good verbs in the songs.  This approach contrasts with the classic Christian understanding that worship is first of all Jesus Christ’s activity toward God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit and that we are graciously invited into a share of his worship.  It is Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ongoing heavenly ministry that ultimately is worship that is true and in the Spirit.  The New Testament tends to take technical Old Testament worship words and apply them to Christ as he brings glory to the Father.  He is the new temple, priest, sacrifice, Passover, and Passover lamb.  Christ fulfills the scriptures in worship.  These songs do something different:  they tend to objectify Christ, turning adoration of him into its own end.  Instead of Jesus as the mediator to worship God the Father, is music becoming a substitute mediator between us and the new object of worship, Christ Jesus?
Ironically, by making worship of Christ its singular end, I suggest the songs distance us from the truest intimacy with the divine, namely, being in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, sharing in his death that brings glory to God the Father.  As Matt Redman describes a proper Trinitarian approach to worship,

We praise Jesus the Son with everything within us—but we also join with Jesus in worship as He glorifies His Father.  As the Holy Spirit reveals the Lordship of Jesus to the depths of our heart, He also takes us into the Son’s relationship with the Father….Worship is to Jesus, yes—absolutely.  We glorify the Son and magnify His name.  But worship is also in Jesus and through Jesus and with Jesus…When our heavenly Father receives our worship, He receives it in the person of His Son and in the power of His Holy Spirit.[8]

C.   Evangelism

1.     Use in identifying cults

a)    Understanding = not necessary for salvation

(1)  OT saints did not know as much as we do.

b)    Acceptance = no guarantee

c)     But rejection = heresy

(1)  Always in other areas too
(2)  Why? Puts human intellect and experience above the plain meaning of Scripture.

2.     Use of analogies

a)    Egg

b)    Demon possession (#1)

c)     Father/son/husband = modalism

d)    Ice/water/steam ~ modalism

e)     Sun/beam/light

f)      Spirit/soul/body

g)    1 x 1 x 1 = 1 (?) (why 3 members of Trinity?)

h)    Books – C.S. Lewis (#4)

i)       Marriage/church/society (#4)

j)      An infinite God cannot be fully described by a finite illustration.  

3.     Use of proof texts

D.   Suffering

"One day,” he said,  "a woman came to me with her husband, and she told me, 'You are a father. You have children?'
"I said, yes. And she said, 'You are a father of your church also.'
"And I said okay.
"She said, 'I need your help.'
“I asked her what kind of help she needed. I thought maybe blankets or food.
“ 'I have three children, but the terrorists came in my home, and they killed all of them. What is this Allah?'
"She said ‘Allah,' because she is not Christian.
“ 'I will believe or I will not believe when I leave your office that there is a God. And you can help me. You have children. You can feel my feelings, what it would be like if you lose your children.'
I really prayed inside. “My Lord, what should I tell her?” And immediately, God gave me an idea.
“Okay, you don’t believe in Allah, that he is not a true god and if he is, how can they come and kill in the name of Allah? You lost your children, but you did not make this choice. I will introduce you to someone, he lost his son willingly.
“ 'What! Why he lost his Son willingly?'
"I started to tell her the story of God, the Father and Jesus, his Son and the Holy Spirit. She started to cry.
“ ‘You know what? You cannot understand me. Just God can understand my feelings because he lost his Son.” And she became a Christian in my office.

VIII.     Sing Trinitarian hymn

Be Thou Exalted
Be Thou exalted, forever and ever,
God of eternity, Ancient of Days!
Wondrous in majesty, perfect in wisdom,
Glorious in holiness, fearful in praise.

Be Thou exalted by seraphs and angels,
Be Thou exalted with harp and with song;
Saints in their anthems of rapture adore Thee,
Thine be the glory forever, amen!
Be Thou exalted, O Son of the Highest! 
Gracious Redeemer, our Savior and King!
One with the Father, co-equal in glory,
Here at Thy footstool our homage we bring.

Be Thou exalted, O Spirit eternal!
Dwell in our hearts, keep us holy within;
Feed us each day with Thy heavenly manna,
Healer of wounded hearts, Thy praises we sing.


-- Fanny Crosby (alt by Alfred B. Smith)

No comments:

Post a Comment