Archive for the ‘Trinity’ category

Trinitarian Prayer

April 30, 2011

The April 26th devotion from Octavius Winslow’s Morning Thoughts really encouraged me in prayer.  I thought I’d post it here to make it more accessible.  You can read his devotional thoughts daily on the official Winslow website or you can also purchase the book or get the Kindle version for only $0.99.  Highly recommended.

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“For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Ephesians 2:18

What is prayer? It is the communion of the spiritual life in the soul of man with its Divine Author; it is a breathing back the divine life into the bosom of God, from where it came; it is holy, spiritual, humble converse with God. That was a beautiful remark of a converted heathen- “I open my Bible, and God talks with me; I close my Bible, and then I talk with God.” Striking definition of true prayer!

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Together for Glory 1: Father in Relation to the Son

June 3, 2008

For the past couple of months, I have been slowly working through and meditating on a Trinitarian study that was spawned off three things: first, a post I wrote regarding intentional evangelism; second, reflections on the covenant of redemption as understood by the Puritans; and third, the upcoming John 3:16 conference which will attempt to address the doctrines of grace (TULIP). One of the major difficulties I find from soteriological convictions/frameworks that do not subscribe to the doctrines of grace is that they do not account for the trinitarian nature of our salvation. The beauty of John 3:16 is that it is nestled a book which provides for the context–context which, as I have found, makes at least 110 Trinitarian propositions.

In this post, I would simply like to list eleven of these propositions with their texts that specifically relate to the Father’s relationship to the Son in a completed (past) work. In my next post in this series, I will provide eleven more propositions of the Father’s relationship to the Son in an ongoing manner.

11 Trinitarian Propositions from the Gospel of John Regarding the Father’s Relationship to the Son, Past Tense

1. The Father has sent the Son into the world [3:16; 5:36; 6:57; 10:36]

John 3:16
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 5:36
36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.

John 6:57
57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.

John 10:36
36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

2. The Father has given the Son all things into his hands [3:35; 13:3]

John 3:35
35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.

John 13:3
3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,

3. The Father has given the Son the works to accomplish [5:36]

John 5:36
36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.

4. The Father has given the Son the commandment, of what to say and speak [12:49]

John 12:49
49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

5. The Father has given to the Son all that would come to him [6:37; 6:40; 10:29; 17:11; 17:24]

John 6:37
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

John 6:40
40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 10:29
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

John 17:11
11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

John 17:24
24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

6. The Father has given the charge of the Son laying down his life and taking it up again [10:18]

John 10:18
18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

7. The Father has given the Son the bitter cup of his death on the cross [18:11]

John 18:11
11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

8. The Father has borne witness about the Son [5:37; 8:18]

John 5:37
37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,

John 8:18
18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

9. The Father has set his seal upon the Son [6:27]

John 6:27
27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

10. The Father has willed that everyone who looks on the Son and believes should have eternal life [6:40]

John 6:40
40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

11. The Father has glorified his name and will glorify it again [12:28]

John 12:28
28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

Blue Collar Theology 30: The Need (Case Study 1)

May 28, 2008

I know it’s not Monday (when I usually post my BCT of the week), but things have been a little off as of late. Nevertheless, I wanted to post a couple of YouTube videos regarding the latest buzz among Christian literature to reveal how deeply we need a Blue Collar Theology today. The book, The Shack, currently ranks has an Amazon sales rank of #5 of all the books they sell (with over 500 book reviews). While it has only been on the shelves for a little over a year, it produced a massive amount of interest among Christians and non-Christians alike.

So I want you to consider the responses as I juxtapose them here for the purpose of showing how biblically illiterate and theologically incompetent we are today to address old heresies in contemporary garb.

FOR: 700 Club

“When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of ‘The Shack.’ This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ did for his. It’s that good!” –Eugene Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.

“The Shack will leave you craving for the presence of God.” – Michael W. Smith

“Love it for lots of reasons. First of all, I love books that touch the emotions and inspire the imagination. This book does that. But it also has an amazing storyline that is really gripping.” – Mark Batterson, Pastor of National Community Church

“Alright, I have to admit- I am usually a major critic of Christian fiction books. They just usually don’t deliver on expectations. But I recently came across a gem- The Shack by William Paul Young. You have to check it out. It will change your perspective and stretch your spiritual paradigm, especially as it relates to the Trinity and God’s desire for relationship with us humans.” – Brad Lomenick, Director of Catalyst Conference

AGAINST: Mark Driscoll

“This book includes undiluted heresy.” – Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY

See also Tim Challies’ 17-page critique.

While the potpourri of heresies in recent years has generated considerable push back by the evangelical world (such as The Da Vinci Code and Gospel of Thomas), one has to wonder if the scent of this fictional book has enough attraction to delude many believers whose theology is no deeper than the front shelves of their local bookstore. Is this not a clear case of our need for a Blue Collar Theology today?!

Book Review: Communion with the Triune God

January 9, 2008

Owen, John. Communion With the Triune God, eds. Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007. 448 pages. $22.00

Reviewed by Jason Meyer

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This book represents a reprint of John Owen’s classic treatise on the Trinity, which was originally published in 1657. This edition, however, is much more than a reprint. It is chock full of extras designed to enhance Owen’s exposition by helping the reader navigate through Owen’s dense content and verbiage. The twenty-seven page introduction to Owen’s Trinitarian theology is an excellent synthesis of the book. The thirty page analytical outline is an amazing tool that makes Owen’s flow of thought more readily accessible to the reader, which is no small accomplishment. The four page glossary makes the transition from 17th century to the present day much less painful. It is like having a Puritan dictionary at one’s finger tips, which the reading of Owen requires even more than other Puritan authors. In other words, this edition is remarkable in that the reader has purchased both a classic theological work and a theological tour guide to ensure that Owen’s mind and heart will leave an indelible mark upon the reader’s mind and heart. Furthermore, the remarkable thing about Owen is that he is such a reliable tour guide in his own right who specializes in introducing readers to the Triune God’s mind and heart.

Upon learning what makes this edition of Owen’s book so laudatory, one may justifiably want to know what makes Owen’s material so valuable. In other words, in the light of so many books on the Trinity, why bother with John Owen? In a nutshell, Owen’s great accomplishment is as follows: he explains the distinct role of each member of the Trinity so that the reader can have a distinct relationship with each member of the Trinity. Furthermore, understanding the unique work of each person in the Godhead enables the Christian to give each person a distinct praise for that work. Owen calls to the reader to press onward and upward in order to plant their feet on higher ground where they will experience a deeper relationship with God and enjoy the exquisite pleasures to be found as the reader sees and treasures more of His beauty and majesty. Many rightly read the book as a theological treatise, but too few find it to be a manual for worship.

A few snippets will usefully demonstrate Owen’s masterful weaving of theology and doxology. Owen shows that lost humanity rests under the wrath of God. However, one must remember that it is the love of God that saves humanity from the wrath of God. Owen brings many Scriptures to the attention of the reader that highlight God the Father’s love (Ex 34:6-7; 1 John 4:8; John 3:16; Rom 9:11-12; Eph 1:4-5; 2 Thess 2:13-14, etc.). This love is most clearly revealed in the Father’s sending of His own Son.

This is the great discovery of the gospel: for whereas the Father, as the fountain of the Deity, is not known any other way but as full of wrath, anger, and indignation against sin, nor can the sons of men have any other thoughts of him (Rom. 1:18; Isa. 33:13-14; Hab.1:13; Ps. 5:4-6; Eph. 2:3)-here he is now revealed peculiarly as love, as full of it unto us; the manifestation whereof is the peculiar work of the gospel (Titus 3:4) (107).

Owen also dismisses the all-too contemporary idea that Jesus is the loving member of the Trinity who saves us from the Father, the angry and stern member of the Trinity:

Christians walk oftentimes with exceedingly troubled hearts, concerning the thoughts of the Father toward them. They are well persuaded of the Lord Christ and his goodwill; the difficulty lies in what is their acceptance with the Father-what is his heart toward them? “Show us the Father, and it suffices us” (John 14:8). Now, this ought to be so far away, that his love ought to be looked on as the fountain from whence all other sweetnesses flow (110).

Furthermore, Owen clears up some common misconceptions about Jesus the Son. Some in the church today act as though they were only dating Jesus. Some act as though they need to impress Jesus and keep him interested in them by Christian obedience. This approach causes Christians to remain unsure of his eternal commitment to us. Christians are married to Christ, they are not dating him. Owen shows that Christ binds himself to us as an all-sufficient Savior and mediator who has purchased our redemption and thus never divorces his bride.

This is the first thing on the part of Christ-the free donation and bestowing of himself upon us to be our Christ, our Beloved, as to all the ends and purposes of love, mercy, grace, and glory; whereunto in his mediation he is designed, in a marriage covenant never to be broken. This is the sum of what is intended: The Lord Jesus Christ, fitted and prepared, by the accomplishment and furniture of his person as mediator, and the large purchase of grace and glory which he has made, to be a husband to his saints, his church, tenders himself in the promises of the gospel to them in all his desirableness; convinces them of his goodwill toward them, and his all-sufficiency for a supply of their wants; and upon their consent to accept of him-which is all he requires or expects at their hands-he engages himself in a marriage covenant to be theirs forever (156).

Kelly M. Kapic describes the essential difference in Owen’s thought between union and communion. Union with God is a unilateral and receptive. Union is a sovereign work of God in which the believer is receptive as an object of God’s grace. Communion with God is mutual and responsive as the believer responds to God’s grace in relationship with Him. Kapic then unpacks the practical implications of this distinction:

While union with Christ is something that does not ebb and flow, one’s experience of communion with Christ can fluctuate. This is an important theological and experiential distinction, for it protects the biblical truth that we are saved by radical and free divine grace. Furthermore, this distinction also protects the biblical truth that the children of God have a relationship with their Lord, and that there are things they can do that either help or hinder it. When a believer grows comfortable with sin (whether sins of commission or sins of omission) this invariably affects the level of intimacy this person feels with God. It is not that the Father’s love grows and diminishes for his children in accordance with their actions, for his love is unflinching. It is not that God turns from us, but that we run from him. Sin tends to isolate the believer, making him feel distant from God. Then come the accusations-both from Satan and self-which can make the believer worry that he is under God’s wrath. In truth, however, saints stand not under wrath but in the safe shadow of the cross” (21).

One of the most helpful sections of Owen’s book was his section on worshiping the Holy Spirit. I grew up singing songs of praise to the Father and the Son, but I was always a little unsure in how to worship the Spirit. Owen shows us how to worship the Holy Spirit by faith as the distinct object of our worship:

Let the saints learn to act faith distinctly on the Holy Ghost, as the immediate efficient cause of all the good things mentioned-faith, I say, to believe in him; and faith in all things to believe him and to yield obedience to him; faith, not imagination. The distinction of the persons in the Trinity is not to be fancied, but believed. So, then, the Scripture so fully, frequently, clearly, distinctly ascribing the things we have been speaking of to the immediate efficiency of the Holy Ghost, faith closes with him in the truth revealed, and peculiarly regards him, worships him, serves him, waits for him, prays to him, praises him-all these things, I say, the saints do in faith. The person of the Holy Ghost, revealing itself in these operations and effects, is the peculiar object of our worship (421).

Owen also gives practical guidance for recognizing the acts of the Spirit that we may adore Him for each distinct act:

Let us, then, lay weight on every effect of the Holy Ghost in any of the particulars before mentioned, on this account, that they are acts of his love and power toward us. This faith will do, that takes notice of his kindness in all things. Frequently he performs, in sundry particulars, the office of a comforter toward us, and we are not thoroughly comforted-we take no notice at all of what he does. Then is he grieved. Of those who do receive and own the consolation he tenders and administers, how few are there that consider him as the comforter, and rejoice in him as they ought! Upon every work of consolation that the believer receives, this ought his faith to resolve upon-“This is from the Holy Ghost; he is the Comforter, the God of all consolation; I know there is no joy, peace, hope, nor comfort, but what he works, gives, and bestows; and that he might give me this consolation, he has willingly condescended to this office of a comforter (422).

In a nutshell, then, I heartily recommend this new edition of Owen’s work on two fronts. First, Owen’s book itself is an absolute masterpiece of theology proper. No work on the doctrine of God gives the reader so much light matched with so much heat. Second, Kapic and Taylor have made this masterpiece more useful and accessible for future generations. John Owen is a gift to the church and the editors have ensured that this gift will be one that keeps on giving.

Carson on Intra-Trinitarian Love, Part II

November 29, 2007

I think this might be my last excerpt on the topic for now. The purpose of these excerpts is to shed some light on the issue raised by Dr. Ben Witherington on whether God is narcissistic and whether a God who is passionate about His glory can be reconciled with John 3:16 (to catch up on the debate, see my compilation of posts). Previous excerpts include John Frame on “God’s Self-Love” and “Intra-Trinitarian Glory” as well as D.A. Carson on “Intra-Trinitarian Love.” Now here is part two from Carson, again on intra-trinitarian love (emphasis mine):

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There are texts in which Jesus addresses God as Father in terms of shared experience in eternity past (notably John 17:5: ‘Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began’).

It follows, then, that the love of the Father for the Son, and the love of the Son for the Father, which we have been considering, cannot be restricted to the peculiar relationship pertained from the Incarnation on, but is intrinsically intra-Trinitarian.

What we have, then, is a picture of God whose love, even in eternity past, even before the creation of anything, is other-oriented. This cannot be said (for instance) of Allah. Yet because the God of the Bible is one, this plurality-in-unity does not destroy his entirely appropriate self-focus as God. . . . To concede he is something other than the center of all, and rightly to be worshiped and adored, would debase his very Godhood. He is the God who, entirely rightly, does not give his glory to another (Isa. 42:8).

. . . in eternity past, the Father loved the Son, and the Son loved the Father. There has always been an other-orientation to the love of God. All the manifestations of the love of God emerge out of his deeper, more fundamental reality: love is bound up in the very nature of God. God is love.

– D.A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), 39.

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Carson makes a key point, viz. that the plurality-in-unity does not destroy his entirely appropriate self-focus as God. To believe that God has anyone other himself central and first in his affections would be to say that God values someone or something higher than himself, making him the subject rather than the object of worship. Before creation began, God entirely satisfied in Himself, and that did not change when he created the world. John 3:16 is not irreconcilable with God who does not give his glory to another which answers the challenge/charges brought by BWIII.

Carson on Intra-Trinitarian Love, Part I

November 28, 2007

Transitioning from the excellent scholarship of John Frame, I want to post two excerpts from another leading scholar, D.A. Carson, from his book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. If you have not read this short but significantly important book, I highly recommend it. Here’s part one (emphasis mine):

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Certainly there is endless ground for wonder in the Father’s love for us, in Jesus’ love for us. But undergirding them, more basic than they are, is the Father’s love for the Son. Because of the love of the Father for the Son, the Father has determined that all should honor the Son even as they honor the Father (John 5:23). Indeed, this love of the Father for the Son is what makes sense of John 3:16. True. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son’—there the object of God’s love is the world. But the standard that tells us just how great that love is has already been set. What is its measure? God so loved the world that he gave his Son. Paul’s reasoning is similar: If God did not spare his Son, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32)? The argument is cogent only because the relationship between the Father and the Son is the standard for all other relationships.

– D.A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), 35.

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Catch the flow of Carson’s reasoning:

1. The Father loves the Son
2. In light of this love, the Father has determined that all should honor the Son
3. The world knows God’s love through the sending of His Son
4. The goal is that the world honor the Son because of the Father’s love

Again we see an intrinsic relationship between intra-trinitarian love and God’s purpose in honoring (glorifying) Himself. This speaks directly to Witherington’s charge regarding John 3:16. “Why does John 3:16 make sense?” Carson asks. Because God has love us through giving us His Son which find its telos not in us, but the Father’s love for, and determination to honor, the Son.

Frame on Intra-Trinitarian Glory

November 27, 2007

On the heels of yesterday’s post, here is an excerpt from John Frame on intra-Trinitarian glory to compliment the data on intra-Trinitarian love (emphasis mine).

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There is a [also] a circle of glorification within the Trinity itself. The Father glorifies the Son (John 8:50, 54; 13:32; 14:13; 17:1, 5), and the Son glorifies the Father (John 7:18; 13:31; 17:4). The Spirit glorifies the Son (John 16:14), and therefore glorifies the Father through the Son. In this context, we learn also that Christian believers glorify Christ (John 17:10), and he gives glory to believers: ‘I have given them the glory that you have me, that they may be one as we are one’ (John 17:22).

There is great mystery here as we gain a glimpse of the intra-Trinitarian being of God. . . . At least we can say that in the Trinity there is a mutual glorification, in which each person glorifies the others. As we explore the mysterious inwardness of the Godhead, we are no longer talking about a glory-light in a literal sense. Rather, each member of the Trinity speaks and acts in such a way to enhance the reputations of the other two, to bring praise and honor to the other persons. There is here a mutual deference, a willingness to serve one another. That is the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5) that motivated the Son of God to become a sacrifice for the sins of men.

The Father does glorify himself (John 12:28), but he does this by glorifying the Son and the Spirit and by glorifying his people. Although he deserves all glory and praise, he serves others and thereby attracts even more glory to himself.

– John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God: A Theology of Lordship (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2002), 594-95.

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In this intra-Trinitarian perspective, we see that the Father is glorified in the Son, the Son glorified in the Father, and the Spirit glorifying the Father and Son. We see one person in the trinity glorifying another, and yet the Triune God is glorifying Himself through the mutual glorification of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Indeed, there is much mystery to this, but can the implications of this lead us to believe that God is not passionate about His own glory? Or is He understood to be even more passionate since each person makes it their objective to glorify one another? Is God being too inward, selfish, and narcissistic?