Sovereign Creator

The Christian tradition affirms God’s utter freedom in creating.  There is no internal necessity for God to create—God did not need to create the world for his own self-fulfillment or self-realization.  Nor is there some external constraint upon God.  Contrast the myths of neighboring societies or the philosophies of the early Greek cosmologists, where a god or the gods struggle with some pre-existent material.  No such matter predates and restrains Scripture’s God.  Nor is there another god, a rival deity, provoking this God to create.  This God is free from all external compulsions.

—Jeremy S. Begbie, Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music, 190

Purposeful Sovereignty

God has revealed his purposeful sovereignty over good and evil in order to humble human pride, intensify human worship, shatter human hopelessness, and put ballast in the battered boat of human faith, steel in the spine of human courage, gladness in the groans of affliction, and love in the heart that sees no way forward.

—John Piper, Providence, 13

All for His Glory

God is so overflowingly, unashamedly satisfied with His own glory that He devotes all His energies to making this glory known. The creation of the universe, the history of redemption, and the consummation of all things are driven ultimately by this great passion in the heart of God—to exult fully in His own glory by making it known and praised among all the nations.

—John Piper, Let The Nations Be Glad, 3rd edition; Chapter 7 “The Inner Simplicity and Outer Freedom of Worldwide Worship,” 248

Eastertide (7)

There had been a Copernican revolution in the thinking of these early Jews due to the Easter events, and this led rather rapidly to a Christological reformulation of monotheism which one can see as well in the remarkable Christian “Shema” in 1 Corinthians 8:6: “For us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” This so clearly echoes Deuteronomy 6:4—“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One”—only now the term God is applied to the Father and Lord to Jesus Christ. This shows just how profound a change had occurred in the thinking of devout Jews like Paul. Not even the odes of salvation history in the Old Testament give any hint of God sharing His praise or divine work with anyone else.  

—Ben Witherington III, We Have Seen His Glory: A Vision of Kingdom Worship, 72

Theology and Worship

I think that Athanasius was correct that Christian theology and worship should be required to have some genuinely mutual relationship.  This means that debates among theologians about God and Christology are not simply about intellectual issues but also have to do with the central devotional practice of Christian churches.

—Larry W. Hurtado, At the Origins of Christian Worship, 102

The Alpha and Omega of Worship

There is no work of God in which the members of the Trinity are not jointly operative.  This is true of creation, redemption and worship. It is by the perfecting causality of the Spirit that the Church’s worship offered in the Son reaches the Father. As a perfecter, the Spirit leads us to the Son, through whom our being and our act (worship) have free access to the Fatherly sanctuary in the same Godhead. Only Spirit-perfected worship is true worship. Not only the Spirit joined through the Son to the Father is the proper object, but also the causative agency of worship, the one who exalts the community in Christ to the heavenly throne of the Father. . . . Worship as such is a gift of grace: what God begins in us He shall complete. God is the alpha and the omega of worship.

—Ngien, Dennis.  Gifted Response: The Triune God as the Causative Agency of our Responsive Worship, 32-33

Worship in Revelation (14)

This is, I think, a very significant thing in the NT, and certainly here in Revelation chapter 5—if the goal of worship is to admire Him in all of His majesty and to cast our crowns before Him and crown Him Lord of all, then notice that in this portrayal of worship, all worship flows from Christ’s leadership and through Christ’s mediation. Isn’t it interesting that John sees the Lion/Lamb standing right at the front of the throne of God, and from Him the Spirit of God flowing to all those who are present in heaven’s glory—as though to say, your worship of the One who is seated on the throne need first of all to be conducted by the One who stands at the front of the throne. And it always need to come through the Spirit by the Son to the One who is seated on the throne. Because, as we have noticed already, He is not only the Mediator of our reconciliation; He is the Mediator of our adoration in worship.

—Sinclair Ferguson, “The Church’s Worship” (audio message: Ligonier Conference, 2006)

Worship in Romans (16)

The world, be it in its totality as cosmos, or in its life and becoming as time and history, is an epiphany of God, a means of His revelation, presence, and power. In other words, it not only “posits” the idea as a rationally acceptable cause of its existence, but truly “speaks” of Him and is itself an essential means both of knowledge of God [Romans 1:19-20] and communion with Him [1:21a], and to be so is its true nature and its ultimate destiny. But then worship is truly an essential act, and man an essentially worshiping being, for it is only in worship that man has the source and the possibility of that knowledge which fulfills itself as true knowledge: knowledge of God and therefore knowledge of the world—communion with God and therefore communion with all that exists. Thus the very notion of worship is based on an intuition and experience of the world as an “epiphany” of God, thus the world—in worship—is revealed in its true nature and vocation as “sacrament.”

—Alexander Schmemann, “Worship in a Secular Age,” in An Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology, 107-8

The Blessed Tri-Unity 5

Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in practical life, almost mere “monotheists.” 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.  [AND the major part of worship???]

—Karl Rahner, “The Trinity” in A Map of Twentieth-Century Theologians: Readings from Karl Barth to Radical Pluralism, 190

The Blessed Tri-Unity 4

The Trinity is not a doctrine, not a sacred teaching or formula or analogy or geometry. Jesus Christ the Son of God reveals the hidden Life He shares from eternity with the Father and Spirit. Jesus only says what He hears His Father saying. Jesus only does what He sees His Father doing. And the Spirit is everywhere making manifest the inseparability of the Father and Son as One God with Them. 

The One God is the “us” in whose image we are made. The One God is the voice Isaiah hears ask the question “Who will go for US?” The One God is present as Son and Dove and Father as Jesus is baptized by John. And so on. The Trinity is known because God acts and speaks in the world they make and the world they love and the world they seek to save as the Father from all eternity sends the Son and “thereafter” (only from our vantage, for there is no before or after in God) sends the Spirit. 

Trinity is what we humans name this revelation in actions and words of the triune nature of the One Love that simply was and is and is to come. God is not words on a page but a divine community of relations that seeks to make us participants by grace in Their eternal way of life, in Their nature. All of this is partial and all of this is “through a glass darkly” but we stammer anyway our worship and our praise. What we don’t do is worship an idea about God. We worship the Triune God of Life who shows us His face in Jesus. 

—Fr. Kenneth Tanner (https://www.facebook.com/kenneth.tanner)

The Blessed Tri-Unity 3

The implications of the doctrine of the Trinity are profound. As Michael Schluter has often said, before anything material existed, there were relationships. Love among the members of the Godhead existed before creation. Love belongs to ultimate reality. Love is from eternity to eternity. In monotheistic religions without the Trinity, there is no-one to be loved before the creation.

The Trinity also means that ultimate reality is unity with diversity. The goal of history is everything becoming rightly related to each other, into shalom, unity in diversity.

—Jeff Fountain, Weekly Word May 28, 2018

The Blessed Tri-Unity 2

The Father sings his Word into the void,
From the depth of his heart bursts out this spring,
Creation’s waterfall by Spirit buoyed,
The breath of love enfiring everything.
He spoke his love through Mary, bearing seed
Sown for us, baking our redemption’s bread,
By the fiery dove whose flame fulfils our need,
That at time’s end no tears be left to shed.
Dead for the Father, through the Spirit slain
In spotless sacrifice, and through his breath
Our dead bones rise with him to dance again,
The three-fold cord ascending us from death.
Rainbow divine, one glory shone in three,
Taking us into your own family.

—Christopher Villiers, “Trinity”

REFORMATION 500: The Continuing Need for Reformation

Bishop Lesslie Newbigin has commented that when the average Christian in Europe or North America hears the name of God, he or she does not think of the Trinity. After many years of missionary work among Eastern religions, he returned to find that much of the worship in the West is in practice, if not in theory, unitarian. The “religion” of so many people today is moulded by concepts of God which obscure the joyful witness of the Bible to the triune God of grace. God is conceived of too often as the remote sovereign Individual Monad “out there,” the law-giver, the contract-God who needs to be, or can be, conditioned into being gracious by devout religious behavior or by this or that religious act, be it even repentance or prayer. The Reformers were concerned to sweep away these views of God, but in spite of the Reformation, such concepts are alive and highly influential in our day.

—James B. Torrance, “Contemplating the Trinitarian Mystery of Christ,” Chapter 12 in Alive to God: Studies in Spirituality, 141

God Our Creator

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” (from the Apostles’ Creed)

What does this mean? I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

Martin Luther, Smaller Catechism

Simple Questions

The doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation for several criteria that can be used to evaluate and prescribe liturgical practices in many contexts. These criteria can be phrased as simple questions: Does liturgy speak of God with reference to particular actions in history recorded in Scripture? Does corporate worship in a particular congregation rehearse the whole of the divine economy? Are its liturgical actions carried out as means for a personal relationship and encounter with God? Do these actions acknowledge the example and mediation of Jesus Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Does the community itself model the kind of intimate fellowship or koinonia that is central both to divine life and the Christian life?

One strength of these criteria . . . while they are certainly formulated in a very culturally specific way, they are the kind of transcultural criteria that are useful for contextual ministry on any continent.

—John D. Witvliet, “The Trinitarian DNA of Christian Worship: Perennial Themes in Recent Theological Literature,” 18