Yesterday, I tried to map out what I see as the essential tenets of the Christian faith, those things that I believe we must share to call ourselves Christians. Of course, that is a much bigger task than can be accommodated by a single blog post. Thus, I’m back today to expand on some themes from yesterday.
First, I’m surprised that no one called me out for excluding the Trinity from my list of essentials. And although that word never occurs as such in the Scriptures, the plain truth of it is there nevertheless: in Genesis, there is Elohim, which implies the plurality in the Godhead, and in John’s gospel, we see Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all present at Jesus’ baptism. One God, three distinct persons. Honestly, I’m not certain I understand how this works, but the best explanation–by way of analogy–I ever heard came from Mike Warnke. He said the Trinity is like a hot cherry pie, fresh from the oven. Let’s say we cut that pie into three equal slices; we would see the lines of demarcation in the crust, but the filling inside flows, knows no demarcation. Thus it is with the Trinity. Note: this is not modalism, wherein the persons of the Godhead are viewed simply as manifestations of God. No, what I learned from the cherry pie analogy is God is identical in essence, but distinct in Person(s).
This, perhaps, gets a little deep–which is part of the reason I didn’t include it yesterday.
Second, I fully realize that, for instance, Oneness Pentecostals are able to build a case from Scripture just as well as I can. And that’s the tricky thing about the Bible, namely that we can make it say pretty much whatever we want–trot it out in support of our ideas.
While I disagree with the idea of Oneness philosophically, far be it from me to exclude from the fellowship of saints people who affirm the deity of Christ, and for whom He died. That is not my job, but God’s–to decide who’s in, and who’s out. I am to love as Jesus loved, and offer the right hand of fellowship. (If you think, in this, that I err on the side of grace, you would be right. I would rather err on the side of grace, and be wrong, than be smugly secure in my pet doctrines, and be right).
Let me put it this way: when sharing Christ, how many hoops must we put the seeking through before we let them in the club? “Do you embrace and affirm a trinitarian understanding of the Godhead?” Chances are, they’d look at us with a blank stare, think we’re smoking crack, and walk away.
While I absolutely believe God is a trinity–in fact, we see this pattern mirrored in humankind, namely, we are body, soul, and spirit–how core, how essential, is it to our soteriology, our theology of salvation? To a hungry, hurting soul do we offer a Godhead, or a Savior? A fuller understanding can come in time. And I fully believe God is quite capable on His own in disabusing us of our errant notions. I mean, Him being God, and all.
I think, in this–oneness vs. trinity–we can safely agree to disagree, but for the love of God, let’s find our commonalities, ok? Let’s work together to further His kingdom on earth. A watching world is waiting. A watching world that says “Just give me Jesus.”
Note: in the course of these posts, I’ve dealt with quite a lot of propositional truth–ideas about God, things we believe about God–all of which really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the face of the majesty of the God Who is. And while I believe there are indeed right, and wrong, ideas about God, He must first be related to as a person, or rather the Person. We would all do well to remember this.