Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Exercises in Trinitarian Community

When we think about the Trinity the unity in view is unity on a mission of spreading goodness, because that is who God is not just to save but just inherent to the life of the Triune God.

The following is derived from Glen Scrivener's Trinitarian thinking on marriage and family. Glen observes three main threads of heresy between husbands and wives, parents and children, which come from neglecting one of the three aspects of Triune love. I want to try and apply this to Christian community, such as a Christian Union or a local church.
We believe:
There is one God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The basic idea here is this: You get the kind of community that reflects the kind of God you believe in. Bad community may well flow from having the wrong god. Particularly three classic heresies concerning the Trinity.

At point A there is distinction and unity but not equality. 
This is an Arian community marked by an imposed traditionalism.
The status quo rules and is determined by those who are "in" who have the power, and they exasperate the rest. The leaders insist upon their way rather than working for others success. In such a community there are no-go areas all over the place, and in the end people leave to find some respect. In an Arian CU people quit to find respect elsewhere, rather than being patronised forever.
Knowing the Triune God would bring a painful transformation to such a community. Such a community is where you want to be, rather than the place you most want to avoid.

At point B there is distinction and equality but no unity. 
This is a Tritheist group which is busy. 
People are different and valued for that but there is no unity. People are just busy and live parallel lives. Anything done together is merely functional. They have meetings for everything and people tend to turn up. The group is highly skilled but heartless, and models something that few outsiders would want to join. The group is driven but most people don't care. Members of Tritheist CU are likely to give up to find genuine familial love elsewhere.
Knowing the Triune God would slow things down and build genuine community, the members would become involved in one another's lives and become people instead of machines. Such a community is attractive instead of exhausting.

At point C there is unity and equality but no distinction. 
This is a Modalist community which is very nice. 
Everyone is loving one another, lost in themselves. Yet a strategic kind of people pleasing lurks as we pretend that we're all the same. Leaders try to maintain peace and things end up looking a bit bland. Disenchanted members leave a Modalist CU because they want their distinctives to be appreciated rather than devalued and ignored.
Knowing the Triune God would shake things up, all those issues previously swept under the carpet would be brought into view, but this would strengthen rather than weaken the unity and equality. Such a community is attractive instead of lifeless.

Those who have been swept up together into the life of the Triune God, bound together by the love of God can begin to form real attractive community. A community marked by asymetrical mutual indwelling. There is distinct-equal unity, united-distinct equality, and equal-united distinction. That is to say the mark of the community is a genuine love that is going places but does so recognising that the members really are not all the same and that the members really all truly belong. They celebrate differences, work together as a body loving one another, considering others ahead of themselves, and reflect the spreading goodness of their God. What kind of community are you in? How can it become more Triune?


  1. more apps than an iPhone: the Trinity! :)

  2. this is blinking brilliant, bish (and glen). thanks.
    Question: would you go to John 17 to call us to "mutual indwelling"?
    If not, what might you have in mind? I can immediately see relevance but not sure how I'd help people actually move from a/b/c to middle. Would you for example have something different in mind for eg CU leaders @ Forum/New Leaders than for CU/SLOBS members @ a houseparty/preterm seminar?

  3. I'm hoping to build this into a session on Unity for CU leaders. I'd love to see it undergird Forum training on unity. I think it could be addressed well in Small Group Leader training and in a houseparty session too.

    The start is to teach clearly on Trinity which we're increasingly doing. John 17 would be good as part of that.

    And then to move from that to the implications - which Glen does very well to marriage & family, and to move out from that to community life is relatively easy.

  4. I like this. Something I wondered about - often when we talk about 'differences' or 'distinctives' in a CU context we're talking at least partially about how best to accommodate the fact that Christians don't always agree. Given that (so far as I understand) the persons of the Trinity, though distinct, are always in perfect agreement, how do we relate this to dealing with differences among fallible human beings?

  5. I think we're partly talking about differences in views, partly in personalities...

    I guess the reality is that while we're looking for being like God we are fallible, as you say. And those differences of view only serve to increase the need for love - and papering over and ignoring the differences wont work, but the imperative to unity says separating isn't viable either.

    I do think most of the same issues exist in the local church just as much, even doctrinal differences.

  6. More: Glen applies this to evangelists and evangelism and mission etc: But we're not all evangelists are we?