One of the things that has been a sort of paradigm shift for me over the last 8-12 months has been a deeper understanding of (please don’t read too much into that statement, in know way am I trying to suggest that I’ve once-and-for-all grasped the mystery of the Trinity!) and captivation by the Trinity. Father, Son, and Spirit, this is the gospel. There is no other God than this mysterious union of 3-persons who make themselves known as one. If God is not really Father, Son, and Spirit then the gospel is untrue and God is unable to save (and further, a liar!).
I’m reading through the second volume of Wolfhart Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology for a class and I’ve again been struck by the beauty and wonder of the Trinity. In 10 §2 Pannenberg briefly traces the Christological development of the unity of Jesus with God when he beautifully touches upon the essence of the Son’s self-differentiation from the Father:
“The self-emptying and self-humbling of the Son [see Phil. 2] that found perfect expression in the history of Jesus Christ should not be understood first as an unselfish turning to us, though it is that also. Rather, it is primarily an expression of the self-giving of the Son to the Father in an obedience that desires nothing for self but serves totally the glorifying of God and the coming of his kingdom. Precisely thus the way of the Son is also an expression of the love of God for us. For by the self-distinction of the Son from the Father, God draws near to us. The kenosis of the Son serves the drawing near of the Father. It is thus an expression of the divine love, for we attain to our salvation in the closeness of God to us and in our participation in his life,” (379).
I think when I read that first my heart skipped a beat. Seriously. Read that over and let it sink it a wee bit. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the doctrine of the Trinity is (IMO) the most important doctrine and the defining Christian doctrine of God. To speak of God Christianly is to speak of God trinitarianly. This may sound rather bold and harsh and perhaps I’m being a bit presumptuous but can we really say we know God if we think the doctrine of the Trinity is unnecessary and superfluous. To know God is to know the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I’d say we often had a concept of God who is essentially some sort of great spirit being who created everything and has something to do with Jesus. Why is this? Have we lost touch with the scriptures? Have we forgotten how to read? Pray? Confess?
OK, perhaps what we need isn’t necessarily teaching about the Trinity (although that couldn’t hurt!) but rather trinitarian preaching (and worship)! I am thoroughly convinced that if we began to read the scriptures, and pray, and worship trinitarianly we may just be overcome with a real sense of awe and wonder at the God who is love and is so pro nobis (for us).