Monday, November 20, 2006

Trinity and Mission (2)

Not THAT Trinity! How'd that get uploaded to my Blogger dashboard?

I received the following comment on The Trinity and Mission via email from Dr. Jon Case, Associate Professor of Theology at Houghton College, New York and thought I'd post it here.

"Think of the Trinity in doxological terms: Do you worship Jesus Christ? Do you worship God the Father? Do you worship, and pray to be filled with, the Holy Spirit?
If you answer yes to all of the above, then the question arises: just how many gods do you worship?

As a minimum, the doctrine of the Trinity attempts to maintain the tension that keeps you away from thinking of 3 gods and from thinking that Jesus, his Father and the Holy Spirit are not three distinct identities. If you say that they are not, then good luck to making sense of the NT. Father Son and Spirit interact with each other. Is that just a charade? If it is, then the text of the NT is no reliable guide to God.

Of course, if you answer 'no' to any of the above opening questions re Father, Son or Holy Spirit - you're in real trouble (and btw, you probably shouldn't be praying to be filled with a spirit that is not God's spirit).

If you answer: I just worship 'God' -and don't pay particular attention to the persons- then you have taken yourself right out of the pages of the NT. The earliest Christians worshipped Jesus --without denying worship to his Father-- by the infilling and power of the Holy Spirit. The worship came first - the theological precision followed a bit later.

If you say: 'Well of course I worship Father, Son and Holy Spirit and believe in only one God, but I don't want to use the term "Trinity" - let's use another term;' -- then in response I'd say you are showing poor theological judgement (a bit like trying to reinvent the wheel) and are needlessly causing confusion in the body of Christ.

So what difference does the doctrine of the Trinity make to mission? We are not calling people to merely follow Jesus (which by itself can be simply an ethical pursuit); we are calling them to worship Jesus. That activity, as the church has acknowledged, lands you in the middle of trinitarian considerations (in other words, just how many gods are we worshipping here?) And if you're not calling followers of Jesus to worship him, I'd say the whole idea of mission is in trouble."

The following was received by Dr. Mike Walters, Professor of Christian Ministries, at Houghton College:

"My daughter just had been asking me some questions about the Trinity for her cell group and I cobbled out a 3 page response...I'm very interested in the emergent church, for a number of reasons, but your response further down the page was appropriate. I once had a friend who left our mutual denomination (not the Wesleyans) who told me, "once the chicken leaves the egg, he/she then has to decide, "what will be my relationship to the shell? Will I disdain it as that which kept me bound, or will I gratefully acknowledge that it birthed me, protected and nurtured me, until I could walk on my own?"

Thanks for your comments guys.


Ludicrousity said...

Interesting stuff Glen. YOu always have such good food for thought!

Anonymous said...

Hello Glen, I hope you are having a good Christmas. My brother-in-law and I have been trying to nut out a theological question for the last few days and i thought that you might be able to direct us. When we are saved does the spirit come upon us and then dwells in us with the baptism of the Holy Spirit or does the spirit dwell in us from salvation and therefore the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not necessary as we have all the spirit we need. We can make an argument for both but have both personally experienced the first one, having both had second experinces with the Holy Spirit.

If you have any idea, we would be grateful.

Peta Hills

Glen O'Brien said...

Thanks for commentign Peta. There can be no such thing as a Christian without the Holy Spirit (that would be a like a person with no air in their lungs). No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Spirit, and anyone who does not have the Spirit does not belong to him. Any subsequent experience of the Holy Spirit should not be seen as getting someone we didn't have before. God does not break himself up into parts or portions. When we first believe, we are indwelt by the Spirit and are caught up into the fellowship of the Triune God enjoying communion withe Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, though WE have all of the Holy Spirit we will ever get upon conversion, HE MAY NOT HAVE ALL OF US YET! So any subsequent "fullness of" or "baptism with" the Spirit can only come through greater surrender of ourselves to God. To speak of "receiving the Spirit" subsequent to conversion is not quite right because it gives the impression that we didn't receive him at conversion.


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