This is the last post in my present series of posts about my course.  This is the end of the course notes, but there is, of course, lots of discussion going on.  So the course notes don’t represent, together with the readings, the totality of the content of the course.  trinity

I think, if others may find it of interest, I may post later on the second of my two essays when it is written. That will be in about a months time though.

I’m conscious that I’ve been posting a lot recently, which has no doubt been disrupting the regular flow of contributions, so a bit of peace from me for now.

In the meantime, I hope this series of posts has been of some interest – I believe by comments received that it has.   When I post about my essay, I’lll also tell people about the pilgrimage I am making in January/February 2014 – something else that might be of interest.

The last notes below concern the Trinity.  As ever, from the written notes it’s not always clear of the flow of the content, but I hope that, even for those who have been around the block a few more times than me with their faith, there might be something of interest here to comment on.

God bless!

The Trinity

The Christian confession of God as Triune is a summary of Scriptures witness to a God of unfathomable love. A love incarnate in Jesus Christ. A living Christ experienced and celebrated in the community of faith.

Not an ancient technical formula, but an understanding of God, which springs from the Gospel message. It is the product of the reflection and insight of the Church over many centuries.

The doctrine of the Trinity did not fall down from Heaven, nor was it found on tablets of stone. It is the product of the reflection of the Church on the Gospel message—the Christ event and the experience of his Spirit among them.

The Trinitarian formula did not define the Trinity. The Trinity was experienced and the formula was the Church’s attempt to give coherent expression to the mystery of God’s grace experienced by the faithful, revealed through the Scriptures.

Biblical Roots of the Doctrine of Trinity

It would perhaps be stretching the point to suggest that there is a full-blown doctrine of the Trinity in the N/T. Instead, there are hints towards it (although the significance of these is much debated).

John affirms something of the closeness of the Son to the Father, especially in the prologue (John 1:1—18), where the pre-existence of the Logos (Word) with God is maintained. In addition, certain blessings/baptismal formulas are Trinitarian in structure (2 Cor 13:13, Matt 28:19).

It would certainly be true to say throughout all this that the divinity of the Son is clearer than that of the Spirit. ‘Indeed, as in John 14, the Spirit is perhaps the way in which the Son is present to the earliest Christian community.’

We do not believe in the Trinity because of a few proof texts (e.g. Matt 28:19) but because of the pervasively Trinitarian pattern of the N/T’s description of revelation and activity of God.

Both O/T and N/T affirm that there is one God who is almighty (Deut 6:4, Mark 12:29—30).

Yet, in the N/T’s record of God’s love there are 3 centres of divine activity:


–Revealed to us in one called the Son

–Present reality in the Church by the one called Spirit

Moltmann—the story of the Gospel is ‘the great love story of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. A divine love story in which we are all involved together with heaven and earth.’

The Triune God accords with biblical witness and the experience of the Church.

1)    God over us (Father)

2)    God for us and with us (Son)

3)    God in us (Holy Spirit)

1)    The loving God

2)    The gracious Lord Jesus

3)    The fellowship and community creating Holy Spirit

There are not 3 God’s but 3 distinct personal expressions of the one God.


Distortions of the doctrine of the Trinity

1)    Unitarianism of the Creator or first person in the Trinity

  • Concept of Almighty God but little sense of personal relationship
  • Often linked with nationalism, Lord of the nation’s destiny
  • Little sense of forgiveness, repentance, transformation of life
  • Often leads to fixed and judgemental attitudes, little tolerance of alternative attitudes, minorities. God is like this and not any other way

2)    Unitarianism of the Redeemer (Christ)

  • Jesus is the exclusive concern of this kind of piety. Jesus alone is the object of trust and allegiance.
  • Jesus becomes a cult figure of some sort, rather than the Jesus proclaimed in the Gospel’s.
  • Jesus my personal saviour, Jesus my Lord. Stress is only on the individual relationship and this seems to cut the believer off from the wider issues of society.
  • We may become a private exclusive group of the saved, far removed from the openness of Christ whose Gospel is for all nations. (Division from society).
  • Salvation is defined in terms of me and my group and nothing else is of real concern—this attitude often exists side by side (even hand in hand) with the most unchristian attributes like injustice and exploitation.
  • It can encourage us to be ‘sentimental’, ‘cosy’, can be narrow and exclusive, can encourage a sort of ‘them’ and ‘us’, the saved and the condemned, a feeling of moral superiority.

3)    Unitarianism of the Spirit

  • In this understanding of God, the gifts of the spirit are everything. Little effort is made to test the Spirit to see whether it is the Spirit of God’s Christ—the Spirit that builds up the community and commissions it for the service of God and others. Some charismatic groups come dangerously close to this.
  • The solution of the problem of a lifeless Church is not simply to stir up intense religious emotion and experience. The experience of the Spirit must also be the experience of the Triune God or it is a divisive or destructive experience.

The Meaning of the Doctrine of the Trinity

We must realise how imperfect our language about God is. Our words descriptions and images will always fail for some, while helping others to come to a more inclusive understanding of God. Yet, in our images we must not lose the sense of the reality we seek to describe.

The Divine Love—who freely gives himself to others, creates community, and shared life. God creates and relates to the world in this way because this is the way God eternally is.

1)    To confess God as Triune is to affirm that the eternal life of God is life in relationship. The Bible speaks of the ‘living God’ (Matt 16:16).

God is not like the dead idols that can neither speak nor act. God speaks and acts creatively, redemptively. Not impersonal but personal—He enters into a living relationship with His creatures.

In Trinitarian faith, we believe that this was how it was from the very beginning—God lives and loves as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Right from the very beginning, there is love, personal relationship, and the creation of community.

God is one but the unity of this one God is a ‘koinonia of persons in love’. We understand the persons of the Trinity in relationship to eachother and in relationship to us. The mutual giving and receiving of love, uniting each with the other—so they are both differentiated and yet inseparable—filled as nothing else can be with one another.

Made in God’s image, we too are called into relationship with God—with other human beings and with all creation.

2)    To affirm Trinity is to affirm God exists in community.

The God of the Bible establishes and maintains community. God is no supreme Monad existing in eternal isolation. The God of the Bible shares eternal life, which is essentially communal.

The distinctive relationship of Trinity is their relationship to each other. Trinitarian love, hospitality, friendship, caring, a community of free and equal persons—a dance of harmony.

That God of a Trinity means the concern for a new community—sharing the resources of the Earth and in which relationships of domination are replaced with relationships of honour and respect among equals.

Leonardo Boff—“The Trinity understood in human terms as a communion of persons lays the foundation for a society of brothers and sisters of equals in which dialogue and consensus are the basic constituents of living together in both the world and the Church.”

A community among people’s of diverse cultures, races and gender—‘being in love’, the source of genuine community.

3)    To confess God as Triune is to affirm that the life of God is essentially self-giving love.

God loves in freedom, eternal, steadfast, omnipotent. God loves in the world—in suffering and in death—human and vulnerable.

God releases His love to strengthen and live in us in the Holy Spirit. The boundless love of God is revealed in the Cross. The eternal source of life and energy. The source of friendship and sacrificial love.

God is the power of compassionate forgiving love, which is stronger than sin or death. This compassion means to suffer with and for another. In Jesus Christ God goes the way of suffering, alienation, and death for the sin of the world.

Trinity—is the source of community filling us with new life.

Each person of the Trinity is a life poured out for us.

Trinity=Self Giving Love and thus is part of all aspects of the Biblical record. God’s way of life in solidarity and hope for the whole of creation.

God loves in freedom—there is no love without vulnerability—the possibility of pain and rejection.

Romans 8:18—39

-The interdependence of all of life. Trinity is not just looking back at the past but looking forward to the glorious completion of divine love.

When we and all creation will be taken into that Trinity of love and God is all in all.


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P.S.  Yes, I have just changed my avatar image. Goodbye Terry-Thomas, hello Anglican Communion compass rose.  Two excellent films come to mind: La Grande Vadrouille, the most popular French made film of all time for many years, and The Cruel Sea, a film I was brought up on, thanks to a new video recorder and war film loving brothers.   Terry-Thomas and HMS Compass Rose, you see.