Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is Trinity just a System you're imposing on God?

Something has changed in my thinking in the last few years. Trinity has moved from p226 of Systematic Theology (as in Grudem) to having to be on page 1.
Am I just imposing a system?
Yes, but I had a system before. The question is, is my system Biblical or not? Everyone is a theologian, the question is am I a good theologian or a rubbish theologian. The same applies to atheists and their atheology.

As I've got into church history I've been humbled to find that my old approach was shaped by a lot of philosophical thinking that seems to persist in the church, the legacy of the Aristotle-shaped Aquinas and others. This meant my view of 'God' was a being with attributes rather than one who makes himself known to us personally.

In this I was prone to an error of Arius who considered God firstly as the 'unoriginate'. Arius would pray "O God, the Everlasting God, Uncreated One, always the same..." but Jesus taught us to pray to his Father and our's, as "Our Father in heaven" a daddy prayer taught by the one who came down to find us to bring us back. Athanasius addresses this and reminds us that the place we come to know God is in the person of Jesus who comes to us as the Son, who has a Father. Here God is not the divine law-giver, the decree-maker, the powerful-creator or the block-of-concrete who rules and never changes, but the Father who is well pleased with his beloved Son. Here Christianity is going to be all about Christ.

This approach means my 'system' is centred upon the gospel, and cashes out with God who is personal, and whom I know firstly as the Father who sent his Son to the cross to bring me, with the rest of his people, into relationship with him, in his renewed creation. It's this gospel-dynamic that then shapes everything else. This is warmer and bigger than the alternative angle which tends to sound more like a Jehovah's Witness, High Church, Islamic approach to thinking about a god who is distant and impersonal - and ends up being individualistic religion rather than life in community with God and people. The God of the Bible is the one who we live to know, to find our life in his sheer love for us  - the God who is the loving Father with a beautiful Son who sends the person of the Holy Spirit to live within us.


  1. Hi Dave, this link will take you to a couple of posts that look at the issue of the Trinity and Systematics. One is lifted from another blog and the other is a book review. Hope they help.

  2. This is good. I've made the same journey... probably over the last two years, slightly later than you. It may seem like nitpicking to some, but I think it's been part of a bunch of small shifts in thinking that have made a big difference for the better in my life lately.