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Christian Identity & the Place of Trinitarian Ecumenism

Christian faith is about the alternatives of life and death rather than about abstract doctrinal and philosophical forms. This does not mean doctrine is unimportant. It simply means it is not life itself. The church is where divine life is to be lived on earth by the outpoured Spirit who creates in us the living prayer of Christ who is the Son of the eternal Father. To be a Christian is thus to participate in the life of the Trinity, not simply to give mental assent to doctrines or emotional loyalty to a form of religion. 

If this is true then faithfulness to the church is not the same as loyalty to our national or cultural identities. We are not American Christians, German Christians, Greek Christians or French Christians. We are Christians! We must not become prisoners to national, local or ethnic identities. Such identities have their place in the human reality and realm. They are not inherently evil. But the catholic identity of the body of Christ means that we love and serve the whole Christian

By |April 12th, 2012|Categories: The Trinity, Unity of the Church|

Speaking of God

We have always had a difficult time when we speak of the living God. Most people, including the most ardent believers, treat this as a non-problem. This reveals a profound lack of understanding biblically and historically. The ancient Jews did not even speak the "revealed" name of God. So how do we, living in the time of Christ who is still with us by the Spirit he poured out on us all, properly speak of God? 

I suggest that we should speak of God relationally. By this I mean that we should speak of God as the Source and energy/dynamic of relationality. In reading Genesis again during the first week of 2012 I was struck by this in the entire book. The Creator is a relational being who made us in his image. We were brought into being, that is into a relationship with God and creation, when the Source of all Being "breathed the breath of life into us" (Genesis 2:7). Trace this point throughout the entire Old Testament and you will see that it remains

Conversations with Theologians

More than twenty years ago an evangelical professor of theology at Hillsdale College, Dr. Michael Bauman (photo), decided to interview some of Image1 Europe’s leading theologians. He selected Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran, Orthodox and Catholic thinkers. He sought out eleven people because he thought they had in them the unmistakable marks of having lived a truly theological existence. The theologians included Hendrikus Berkhof, Alister McGrath, Jürgen Moltmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Bishop Kallistos Ware, Sister Benedicta Ward, Thomas Torrance, Gareth Moore, John Macquarrie, Bishop Graham Leonard and Dorothee Sölle.

This excellent small book, now available only from out-of-print sources, was titled Roundtable: Conversations with European Theologians. As I was recently going through my library to purge several thousand books I re-discovered this little book of only 142-pages. I found it so immensely interesting that I decided not to part with it quite yet.

Michael Bauman suggests that evangelicals are often extremely insular when it comes to doing theology. We are far more likely to read authors that we already know and agree

By |September 15th, 2011|Categories: Biblical Theology, The Trinity, Theology|

God Is a Community of Persons

Perhaps the most astounding discovery of my last ten years or so has been the realization that God is a community of persons existing in an eternal relationship of love. The Father loves the Son. This is more than a source of doctrinal acknowledgement or confession. It is even more than a source of inspiration. We actually share in this community of persons because He loves each of us with that same unconditional love. This is what St. John tells us when he says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”

trinity To be a Christian is much more than imitating Jesus. It is certainly more than following his commandments, as important as this really is to living faith. Authentic faith leads us beyond these limits into the richness of a divine relationship. We are called to not only imitate Jesus but to live our lives in Him.

Through faith and Christian baptism we share in the glory that was his before the world began. This

By |July 31st, 2011|Categories: Love, The Trinity|

The Trinity Is Not an Abstract Doctrine

Christian_Triquetra I wrote yesterday about my growing awareness of the love of God as a community of persons. I was brought into this community by faith in the Son of God and through Christian baptism. This is why I was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Far too many Christians I’ve known over the years seem to find the Holy Trinity to be nothing more than an abstract doctrine. It is not, in their understanding and experience, a living community of persons. We think of God as pure mystery, at least in the sense of his being someone who is impossible to understand, rather than as an invitation to endless love and understanding. The fact that God is three persons in one is a mystery, a mystery so profoundly deep that it is endlessly rich. It is in this sense that St. Paul speaks of “the mystery of God.” Without this insight our life will become little more than a moral effort

By |July 30th, 2011|Categories: Lordship of Christ, The Trinity|

The Importance of T. F. Torrance

Thomas Forsyth Torrance (1913 – 2007) was one of the greatest of all 20th century Christian theologians. Torrance’s diverse writing is often dense, not the easiest to grasp by simple reading and yet tremendously important. As I work away on a book on the Trinity I find myself going back to Torrance time and time again.

thomastorrance Tom Torrance, as his friends called him, was born in China to Scottish missionary parents. He studied classics at Edinburgh and Oxford before he studied under the famous Karl Barth at Basel. After a brief stint in New York as a teacher at Auburn Seminary World War II broke out and Torrance became a chaplain. He later served a parish in Scotland for ten more years. His best known work came by lecturing for 27 years as Professor of Christian Dogmatics at New College in the University of Edinburgh. While he wrote many books and articles advancing his own study of theology, he also translated several hundred theological writings into English from

The Trinity and Christian Unity

When I began my journey to missional-ecumenism the most important doctrine that I began to understand in a new way was the Trinity. This doctrine about the God who is revealed in Holy Scripture powerfully relates to unity among Christian believers. I was honestly unprepared for how powerfully this truth would grip my own mind and heart as I studied and wrote about the church and the missio Dei. Now that the book is done I am working on the sequel, which will actually attempt to work out how we are to live our lives to the glory of God through loving God as Trinity. If you cannot love God without knowing God then this truth has to be central since this is how God has chosen to reveal himself to us in Jesus Christ.

Multitudes of Christians seem to think the Trinity is vaguely important but they have no earthly idea why this is true. Only by recovering a practical, workable understanding of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit can we gain what we need to truly live in the Triune God. There

The Feast of Pentecost

2-banner_pentecost_ Today is the beginning of a new cycle in the church year, the Feast of Pentecost. Easter has ended liturgically but Pentecost reminds us that the resurrected Christ is still with us by the gift of the Spirit who makes him known to all who believe.

The word pentecost (from the Greek pentekoste hemera, meaning “fiftieth day”) was originally a Hellenistic term for the Jewish Feast of Weeks. For the early Christians Pentecost, eventually celebrated seven weeks after Easter, or fifty days after the Easter Vigil, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples when they were empowered to preach the gospel. It marks the beginning of the church, at least as we know it in this present age (Acts 2:1-13). Pentecost was actually the third major Jewish feast. It initially celebrated the harvest of grain and later the giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai.

On the first

Naming God: Does It Matter What We Call Him?

Naming God is an extremely important matter that too few of us take as seriously as we should. This issue gets pushed forward now and then when various progressive readings of Scripture are promoted in the church. Sometimes these progressive tendencies come from radical feminism. Sometimes they just come from careless non-Trinitarian concepts of God.

In February of 2008 the Vatican issued an eighty word document that produced the following newspaper headline: “Vatican Says Baptisms Using Wrong Words Are Not Valid, Must Be Redone.” The document said, “Anyone baptized in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier” or in the name of “the Creator, the Liberator and the Sustainer” didn’t really get baptized with Christian baptism. I happen to agree with this statement of the Vatican and I think many conservative evangelicals would be puzzled by such agreement.

Following the Vatican’s statement in May of 2008 Christianity Today reported that a Methodist minister “howled about the Vatican’s liturgical fundamentalism that values human language over

By |October 15th, 2009|Categories: The Trinity|

Ben Witherington on The Shack

BenOne of the very best, if not the absolute best, theological, social and political blog spots on the Internet is that of Ben Witherington, III. Witherington is a highly-esteemed New Testament professor at Asbury Seminary (Wilmore, Kentucky) and the author of numerous academic and popular books that are always of superb quality. I only read a few blogs regularly, mostly because of my personal time constraints. This is one blog that I try to get to as often as possible. After I wrote my simple critique of The Shack last week I was linked to  Witherington’s blog (go to the archives and then go to July 22 and there you will find the review), by a friend. He asked me to comment on Dr. Witherington’s review of The Shack. I told him that Witherington’s review is a thorough and extremely helpful critique. For all the hyper-conservative rant about this book, this particular blog offered a serious reflection with some helpful theological insights that I

By |August 12th, 2008|Categories: The Trinity|

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