The following from Jesuit, Karl Rahner, is a sad commentary on the Western church today. He said, “We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.” (Rohr, The Divine Dance: Trinity and Your Transformation, Kindle loc. 333).
Could it be that our giving lip service to the Trinity is one of the reasons why we’re so divisive within the body of Christ? More on that in a moment. A brief review first.
This is the final installment of my series, “The Trinitarian God.” I’ve already covered the theology, history, and the common objections to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity in this series. Last time, I shared the first two points outlining my thoughts and reasoning for why it should matter to us.
First, God is defined by relationship. He’s a Father, who has a Son, and we connect with Him through His Spirit. Scripture declares that God is love (1 John 4:8), which means other-centered, self-giving relationship defines the essence of God.
Second, if God is alone then we’re alone. But the good news is, we’re not alone! The ultimate purpose of God’s redemptive plan was for our adoption as sons and daughters. Jesus came to include us in the divine life of God.
“The stunning truth is that this Triune God, in amazing and lavish love, determined to open the circle and share the Trinitarian life with others. This is the one, eternal and abiding reason for the creation of the world and of human life. (From Dr. C. Baxter Kruger, “Summary of the Trinitarian Vision“)
The third reason the Trinity should matter to us is because our union in Christ in God brings us into union with one another and shows the world God’s love for them:
23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:23 *)
This was Jesus’s prayer for us, for when we see ourselves in this Trinitarian Life, we will see each other there, too. And it’s by “participating in the divine nature” (2 Pet.1:4), embraced by God’s other-centered, self-giving love, that we learn how love others the same way, thus fulfilling all the Law and Prophets (Matt.22:37-40; John 15:9; 17:23). This is why understanding that God is, first and foremost, about relationship is so critical.
The fourth reason the Trinity should matter to us could be the most important but least understood because it’s so counter-intuitive. If God is not Triune, then we risk remaining enslaved to “the basic principles of the world” (Gal.4:3), which is dualistic (oppositional) in nature.
The dualistic mindset is one of separation: it’s judgmental, combative, competitive; it’s making comparisons; it’s “us” against “them” and “I’m right and you’re wrong.” It’s eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is the wrong tree. I wrote about this in “The dynamic flow of the Trinitarian Life” so I’ll only summarize here.
I contend that if we don’t learn to walk in the dynamic flow of the Trinitarian life of God, we won’t be able to fully follow Jesus. We’ll never truly love our enemies, be non-judgmental, or not seek retribution like Jesus told us. We’ll remain fearful, self-protective, hypocritical grace-haters, turning His description of what it looks like to live in this flow into legalistic commandments to be rigidly obeyed. “Love is…” turns into “Thou shalt…” (see 1 Cor.13:1-13). That’s not finding rest for your soul, that’s exhausting and debilitating religion (see Matt.11:28-30 MSG). God’s perfecting, overflowing, empowering “fountain fullness of love” won’t be able to fully drive out our orphan fear in this dualistic paradigm (1 John 4:18).
But, in this dynamic flow, we obey because we are embraced and carried by love and, therefore, we love as a matter of course. We love because we abide in Love.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16 NIV *)
I’ll end my series with this video clip with Richard Rohr. As he says, we must leave dualistic thinking for Trinitarian (ternary) thinking. It’s dynamic, other-centered, and according to God’s own nature. The ternary “principle of three” is always creating, always spinning and moving forward with its dynamic flow. It’s the nature of the universe. And, as Rohr also says, “It was made to order to defeat the dualistic mind.”