Theology comes out of our encounter with God through Christ. If we have received for whatever reason the Grace that leads us to faith we have, as Struans has emphasised, to reconcile what we have received with what the Christian Church has taught. We are, of course, at liberty to proclaim that the God we have encountered has nothing to do with any Trinity and has told us, personally, what to believe; we can even tell others that he or an angel has given us a fresh revelation in a new book, and we can tell the world we are Christians. That’s a bit like someone who has read a lot about America and watched a lot of movies telling us he’s an American when he’s never been there. In our post-modern world who knows, folk might even believe him; but he’ll not get through at the appointed passport points. Orthodox Christians would say the same about the person claiming personal revelation if it does not chime with that of the Church founded by Jesus, although we might moderate it in humility with the comment that God alone stamps the passports, so to-day. Still, we can say only what we’ve been told, which is that Jesus is the way. We know of no other.
Do I have to understand the doctrine of the Trinity to be saved? No, but I do have to accept that God is a Trinity. Why does that matter? Well, Struans post here expresses one reason very well:
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 each other 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.
That’s what it means, at least in part, to say God is love. The Trinity is a community of love which overflows into creation – and redemption – yes, it is as radical as that. We are the product of the mutual love that is the Trinity, and so powerful, so overwhelming is it that everything we see, including ourselves, is its product. The Trinity loves the products of its love, and in turn, calls us to love Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But so radical is that love that it allows us to reject it and do whatever it is we want.
We cannot know the full reason for the incarnation, but Christians have believed that it was necessary to redeem our flesh. We fell in Adam, we are saved by the new Adam. What one man lost, another retrieved, but did so not by being just man, but also by being at the same time God. Ah, there we go again, how can we reconcile these seeming contradictions? That was the argument which rumbled through the first five Christian centuries, and so good were the results of that God-talk, that it is with us today and informs our modern talk about God.
If you haven’t read through Struans’ postings on theology, do, please, because it nicely demystifies what is crucial to us all – talking about God.