Smelling the roses

“He has made everything
beautiful in its time.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11

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Published in: on 06/30/2012 at 9:29  Leave a Comment  
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A passion for life

[T]here is nothing inherently wrong with the physical world and bodily life. Nothing in the world God created caused our alienation and provoked the groan of all creation. None of the groan we feel is from our essential existence in the world, but rather from our broken existence in the world.

The world is good. The world has been broken,
but full freedom is coming.

This should free us to rejoice in the present. The Spirit’s nearness does not causes us to despise the world but join in God’s profound love of it (cf. John 3.16).

… Jurgen Moltmann has said, “God’s blessing enhances vitality and does not quench the joy of living. The nearness of God makes this mortal life worth loving, not something to be despised.”

In the Spirit of the Resurrection we participate now in the renewal of life and rejoice in the vitality and passion for life He gives.

–Richard Liantonio

Designed for delight

The world exists, not for what it means but for what it is. The purpose of mushrooms is to be mushrooms; wine is in order to wine: things are precious before they are contributory.

It is a false piety that walks through creation looking only for lessons which can be applied somewhere else.

To be sure, God remains the greatest good; but, for all that, the world is still good in itself. Indeed, since He does not need it, its whole reason for being must lie in its own natural goodness; He has no use for it, only delight.

–Robert Farrar Capon

Made to enjoy

I sometimes think that God will ask us,
“That wonderful world of mine,
why didn’t you enjoy it more?”

–Ronald Blythe

Does God enjoy flowers?

I know no-one (Thomas Traherne) in Christian writings who sees the shining Love of God so deeply in the actual world around us. He basically argues that when someone makes and gives a gift, that giver’s greatest happiness is to see the recipient enjoy it aright.

Nothing can make God happier than seeing us
delighting in His gifts and enjoying them
the way He Himself does.

Does God enjoy flowers?, birds? fresh air? colours? the sun? Traherne would say “Most certainly!!” and our greatest happiness is to enjoy them with Him, learning to see them as He does. Moreover, if I were the only human on earth, He would give them ALL to me, just as He does now. But I am even more blessed in the fact that He gives them to every other person — and also gives those persons to me to delight in and love! We are meant to be gifts to each other. A great over-flowing of Goodness!

–Wingfold

And God said it was good

“Love not the world, neither the things
that are in the world” (1 John 2:15).

“God . . . provides us richly with all things
for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).

To treat the world with contempt and to enjoy the world are things contrary to each other. How, then can we to treat the world with contempt, which we are born to enjoy? Truly there are two worlds. One was made by God, the other by men. That made by God was great and beautiful. Before the Fall it was Adam’s joy and the Temple of his Glory. That made by men is a Babel of Confusions: Invented Riches, Pomps and Vanities, brought in by Sin . . . Leave the one that you may enjoy the other.

–adapted from Thomas Traherne (c. 1636-1674)

Perichoresis

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush
afire with God;
And only he who sees
takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it
and pluck blackberries.

–Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Published in: on 06/24/2012 at 7:06  Leave a Comment  

Becoming fully human

The Kingdom of God has to do not only with the God of creation, but also with the creation of God . . .

Making a difference in our world – Kingdom living – implies that there is a duality to be acknowledged. Jesus said: “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). There is light and darkness, right and wrong, good and evil. But what has happened is that all that is light, right and good has been identified with one side of ‘reality’ (= the church) and all that is dark, wrong and evil with the other side of ‘reality’ (= the ‘world’). The result is that many Christians have adopted a ‘siege mentality’, hauling up the drawbridge so that there is little real intercourse between the church and the world.

Instead of celebrating all that is good in the world,
some Christians view the secular world
as unspiritual, even to be avoided.

Early on in the life of the church all sorts of wrong ideas about the world in which we live began to take root. It’s called dualism, and it has a lot to do with Plato, whose ideas have infiltrated the church over the centuries.

Dualism has robbed many people – and
many Christians – of the joy of life
in God’s good creation.

Simply put, dualism says that life is divided into two compartments, the holy and the unholy, or the sacred and the profane: for one compartment – obviously ‘holy’! – read ‘church’, and for the other (‘unholy’) read the ‘world’…

We so easily divide life up into two realms, with a whole lot of false opposites. We pit sacred against secular, faith against works, church against world, soul against body, heaven against earth, prayer against politics, creeds against deeds, and so we could go on.

Some sections of the church need to repent of the narrow dualism that avoids any form of genuine contact with the world, a suffocating dualism that can treat God’s creation as intrinsically contaminating rather than intrinsically wholesome and good . . .

Hans Kung, the well-known Catholic theologian,
was once asked why we should
embrace Christianity. His reply was:
“So that we can be fully human.”

Spirituality and humanity go together – they are not to be pulled apart – in fact, I would go so far as to say that our Christian maturity could be measured not by how ‘spiritual’ we are, but how fully human we allow ourselves to be! What is our ultimate destination, as Christians? …

Our ultimate destination is not heaven –
it is the new earth that will represent the final act
in God’s great redemptive purposes.

–Graham Buxton
(adapted)

Mistaken belief

It is a great mistake to think
that God is chiefly concerned
with our being religious.

―William Temple

Published in: on 06/22/2012 at 7:11  Leave a Comment  
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God, grapefruits and spirituality

Someone ask me recently, “what is God doing in your life?”  If you could have heard the way he said God, you would have known that his question was loaded.  As soon as he asked it a feeling of inferiority swept through my heart.  For I knew that he was asking me what supernatural, what grand and astonishing thing had God done in my life recently.  And I knew that if I didn’t have a rather grandiose story to tell that my spirituality would be questioned.  “Well,” I said, “He gave me a ruby red grapefruit, two daughters, a son, baseball, fishing lures, friends and a wife to dance with.”

Many Christians, in their proper pursuit of Zoe, spiritual life, leave behind their Bios, natural life, as if they can have the one without the other. 

If we separate the life of the Trinity from our humanity then we fall into a wholesale de-valuing of the natural, the ordinary things of life.  The dignity of our work vanishes.  For what is managing a hardware store or running a bread route or making fishing lures compared to being a spiritual person in the pursuit of God?

When the life of the Trinity is separated from creation, our pursuit of spiritual life then leads us to discount ordinary things, to look over ordinary people and beyond ordinary events in our quest for God.  While the great dance of the Trinity is not to be reduced to creation, we have no access to it without it.

The life of the Triune God permeates creation and it is within creation that we experience it.

–C. Baxter Kruger

The ghost of Plato

We’re always in danger
of making Christianity too spiritual.
It’s the ghost of Plato.
Christianity is a flesh and blood faith.

–Brian Zahnd ‏

God’s good gifts

“All the creatures of God are good, if they be received with thanksgiving.” This text shows, that what God has made is good. Now eating, drinking, marrying, etc., are of God’s making, therefore they are good. Yet . . . the primitive fathers are against this text: for St. Bernard, Basil, Jerome, and others have written far otherwise of the same. But I prefer the Text before them all.

–Martin Luther, Table Talk

The primary heresy

Gnosticism was the PRIMARY heresy that the early church combated, precisely because from the beginning of the church it was the most destructive idea to authentic apostolic Christianity. This idea subtly continues in the church when we ascribe a bad or inferior status to the material world or specifically our bodies. This belief slowly, yet thoroughly deconstructs the meaning and power of apostolic doctrine in its belief of the goodness of God’s role as creator, his creation, the value of the life of the body and the renewal of the earth.

–Richard Liantonio

Fully human

Jesus didn’t come to make us Christian,
he came to make us fully human.

–Hans Rookmaaker (1922–1977)

The Dance of God

Our concert of praise
To Jesus we raise,
And all the night long
Continue the new evangelical song:
We dance to the fame
Of Jesus’s name,
The joy it imparts
Is heaven begun in our musical hearts.

–Charles Wesley

The Greek noun perichoresis was the early church’s favourite word to describe the interrelationship of the holy Trinity. When the prefix peri (around) is linked with the root of the verb choreuein (to dance), a compelling metaphor is formed or “choreographed” to describe the “one nature in three persons” of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Literally they “dance around.” The choreia or dance of God is the choreography of the cosmos, the interrelationship of Creator, creation, and life itself, the holy creativity of the All in All.

The dancing metaphor of the holy Trinity is envisioned and embodied as a circle dance. The dance of the triune divine is moving, active, eternally both transcendent and immanent, and flowing together in a joyful harmonious, rhythmic and resonant celebration of life…

As we join the Lord of the Dance in the art of pilgriming (being on the way), we form a community of followers, each relationally on the move and invested in each other’s life. The body of Jesus becomes a whirling life force, wherein each member of the growing body becomes aligned with Christ and at one with God. The implication of the dance of the Trinity is that all persons dance a dance of mutual love, breath together the breath of life, and pour out to one another in mutual giving…

O Lord . . . you changed
My mourning into dancing . . . .
Forever will I give you thanks.
Psalm 30:11-13 NAB

The Bible is filled with stories of dancing. These dances are not planned, scripted ballets but improvised songs of freedom and hope. They aren’t performed by trained and seasoned professionals but are initiated in the joyful celebrations of the common people of God…

Jesus invites us all to dance, though not all follow. “We piped to you, and you did not dance.” But look what happens when we do. As followers fall into sync with Jesus, we enjoy not just synergy with him but a syncopated and synchronous movement together. The rhythms of the Jesus life echo within the movements of the Spirit’s music until we are singing and dancing together in a beautiful and diverse harmony. The dance of Christ is a world dance.

The Holy Spirit is starting new dances
in every part of the world.
When we dance the dance of God,
we follow the Spirit’s lead.

The time is now, and the dance is eternal. Don’t sit this dance out. Life is a speedy season. Buds burst in smelly spring; fruits delight in fertile summer. Leaves change colors in inflamed autumn. Trees fall in whitened winter. Dance while you can. The world doesn’t need more conversations so much as it needs more dancing.

When you stumble,
make it part of your dance.
–Anonymous

. . . The perichoresis of God is a dance of love that moves and flows through the ins and outs, ups and downs of all of life’s joys and travails. The circle of our dancing is a powerful movement of shared com(passion)…

To join the dance of the Spirit, we need to break out of our square lines and ballroom boxes and let the Spirit draw us in. The dance of the perichoresis is a unity of sound and sight, a unity of followers of Jesus, and a unity of God and world.

Heaven is much too serious a place for work.
It will be all dance and play there.
–C. S. Lewis


–Adapted from Leonard Sweet

The fundamental truth about God

The early Church saw that what was fundamental about God was the Trinity. But in the development of Western theology, the holiness of God was substituted for the Trinity as the fundamental truth about God. In truth, it was a false view of the holiness of God that was substituted. For the holiness of God, properly understood, is simply beautiful. If we took the joy and the fullness and the love of the Father, Son and Spirit, their mutual delight and passion, the sheer togetherness of their relationship, its intimacy, harmony and wholeness, and rolled them all into one word, it would be “holiness.”

The holiness of God is one of the special words we have to describe the wonder and the beauty, the uniqueness and health and rightness of the Trinitarian life.

But in the Western tradition, the holiness of God was detached from the Trinity and reconceived within the world of law and order, crime and punishment, blind and cold justice. Reconceived within this stainless steel world of pure law, “holiness” came to mean “legal perfection” or “moral rectitude.” The notion of holiness was then taken back into the doctrine of God and substituted for the Trinity as the deepest truth about God—the driving force of divine existence.

When that happened, the whole logic of the universe changed, and with it the logic of creation, the logic of incarnation and the death of Christ, the logic of human existence and that of the Holy Spirit. It all got twisted, skewed, terribly confused.

–C. Baxter Kruger

God: Holy or Loving?

What word best describes your view of God: “holy” or “love”? Which is the primary quality of God?

In his book, God in the Wasteland, theologian David Wells expresses his concerns that the contemporary church is sliding into apostasy because of its failure to maintain the supremacy of God’s holiness. He refers to a 1993 survey of students from seven conservative seminaries. The students were asked which statement best described their primary view of God: (1) God is love, or (2) God is holy. The results troubled Wells. 80% answered that “God is love” best described their view of God. Only 18% said the same concerning the statement, “God is holy.” In light of these responses, Wells argues that evangelicalism is degenerating into a form that no longer resembles biblical Christianity. For Wells, to emphasize God’s love over God’s holiness denies the message of Scripture and results in a weakened and compromised gospel.

Is Wells right? What do you think? Is God’s holiness the quality that should take precedence in our view of God? Or, is love the central quality of God?

A close look at Isaiah 6 – Isaiah’s well-known vision of God – answers the question, but not in the way one might expect. Only when Isaiah 6 is placed in the full context of the complete revelation of God in sacred scripture does it shed the fullest light on the nature of God.

Read the rest of the article…

http://www.theocentric.com/theology/godhead/god_holy_or_loving.html

Ultimate reality

The eternal experience of God is a shared life of personal love between Father, Son, and Spirit. This is the basis for John’s unique declaration in his first epistle: God is love!   (1 John 4:8, 16) We often forget how absolutely amazing this affirmation really is. It has absolutely no equal in the whole of ancient literature. It is therefore worth repeating: God is love! John is not simply emphasizing that God loves; John proclaims that God is love.

Love is not merely a function or expression of God;
love is the very essence of God.

The constant experience of God is love. Ultimate reality – the divine reality – is love.

–Richard J. Vincent

Overflowing goodness

God is not an absolute Ego, unchangeable and all-determining. God is not a single self, isolated and solitary. God is a beautiful and alluring relational and dynamic community of love who does not alienate but fulfills us.

God’s glory does not lie in self-aggrandizement
but in self-giving.

God glories not in domination but in loving. What we see most centrally in God is the shining radiance of love.

According to self-revelation, God is not an Unmoved Mover but the God of Jesus Christ, who goes out of himself and acts in history, who becomes involved in the affairs of his people and enters into conversation with them. God is closer and more intimate to us than we allow ourselves to believe. God is not preocupied with himself, not unable to give himself away.

It is the essence of God that he go out from himself and overflow for the sake of the other.

In his very being as triune, God moves outward toward creation and incarnation. Giving us life and taking us to his own bosom are not afterthoughts but accord with God’s nature and purpose.

–Clark Pinnock

The awesome story

Our story is about what happened when the love between Father and Son was fleshed out within our world. As the Son took up our humanity, joining himself to us, our humanity was taken up in the interplay of love between the divine persons.

–Gerrit Scott Dawson

Making room for others

Self-giving love is the dynamic currency of the Trinitarian life of God. The persons within God exalt, commune with, and defer to one other… Creation is neither a necessity nor an accident. Instead, given God’s interior life that overflows with regard for others, we might say creation is an act that was fitting for God… In creation God graciously made room in the universe for other kinds of beings. God’s splendor [glory] becomes clearer whenever the Son of God powerfully spends himself in order to cause others to flourish… Jesus Christ’s pattern of life in the world reproduces the inner life of God.

–Cornelius Plantinga

Trinity, holiness and mothballs

Without the Trinity, holiness has the smell of mothballs about it, the look of a Victorian matron administering castor oil. And much of what purports to be holiness has just that aura about it: all prickliness and prudery. People even say things like ‘Yes, God is loving, but he is also holy’ – as if holiness is an unloving thing, the cold side of God that stops God from being too loving.

Balderdash! Or at least, it is if you are talking about the holiness of the Father, Son and Spirit. No, said Jonathan Edwards,

“Holiness is a most beautiful, lovely thing. Men are apt to drink in strange notions of holiness from their childhood, as if it were a melancholy, morose, sour, and unpleasant thing; but there is nothing in it but what is sweet and ravishingly lovely.”

Holiness and beauty

What is holiness, then? The words used for holiness in the Bible have the basic meaning of being ‘set apart’. . . For the reality about me is that I am cold, selfish, vicious, full of darkness and dirtiness. And God is holy – ‘set apart’ from me – precisely in that he is not like that; there are no such ugly traits in him. ‘God is God,’ wrote Edwards, ‘and distinguished from [that is, set apart from] all other beings, and exalted above them, chiefly by his divine beauty’ (for the connection between holiness and beauty, see Psalm 96:9).

Holiness is about love

Now the holiness of a single-person, non trinitarian God would be something quite different. His holiness would be about being set apart away from others. In other words, his holiness would be all about aloof distance. But the holiness of the Father, Son and Spirit is all about love. Given who this God is, it must be. Edwards again:

“Both the holiness and happiness of the Godhead consists in this love. As we have already proved, all creature holiness consists essentially and summarily in love to God and love to other creatures; so does the holiness of God consist in his love, especially in the perfect and intimate union and love there is between the Father and the Son.”

The holiness of the triune God is the perfection, beauty and absolute purity of the love there is between the Father and the Son.

There is nothing grubby or abusive about the love of this God – and thus he is holy. My love is naturally all perverse and misdirected; but his love is set apart from mine in perfection. And so, the holiness of the triune God does not moderate or cool his love; his holiness is the lucidity and spotlessness of his overflowing love.

For the believer to be holy, to be godly – means to be like God. If God is a being curved in on himself, then to be like him I should be like that. If Aristotle’s eternally introspective God is God, then plenty of navel-gazing seems to be just what’s called for. If love and relationship were not central to God’s being, then they wouldn’t feature for me either. Forget others. If God is all single and solitary, be a hermit. If God is cruel and haughty, be cruel and haughty. If God is the sort of oversexed, beer-sloshing war-god of the Vikings, be like that. (Though please don’t.)

But with this God, the two greatest commands are ‘Love the Lord your God’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. For that is being like this God – sharing the love the Father and the Son have for each other, and then, like them, overflowing with that love to the world. In Leviticus 19, the Lord famously says ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy’ (v. 2). What does holiness look like there? It means not turning to idols but coming to the Lord with proper fellowship offerings (vv. 4-8). That is, it means fellowship with the Lord. And it means not being mean to the poor, not lying, not stealing etc. (vv. 10-16) – that is, it means ‘Do not hate your brother in your heart … but love your neighbour as yourself’ (vv. 17-18).

Love for the Lord, love for neighbor –
that is the heart of holiness and
how the triune God’s people
get to be like him.


The beautiful, loving holiness of this God makes true godliness a warm, attractive, delightful thing. Holiness for God, said Edwards, ‘is the beauty and sweetness of the divine nature’, and so ‘Christians that shine by reflecting the light of the Sun of Righteousness, do shine with the same sort of brightness, the same mild, sweet and pleasant beams.’ To know and enjoy the God who is love essentially means learning to love as He does.

–Adapted from Mike Reeves

What is holiness?

In the course of a Bible study for college students in Delhi, a Hindu girl asked me what I consider to be a brilliant question: “How can you Christians say God is good? Good is the opposite of evil; evil is not eternal; therefore, good cannot be eternal as well.” . . . The Christian insists that God exists without reference to evil and rejects the dualism of positing good and evil as equal and opposite. But how can the Christian sustain this position philosophically and existentially?

If I were awakened suddenly in the middle of the night and asked this question, “What is holiness?” my instinctive answer would be “Absence of sin!” Although that may be enough of an answer for our understanding of holiness because of our fallenness and familiarity with sin, it would be inadequate as a definition of the holiness of God. He is holy without any reference to sin. How do we define that kind of holiness? We cannot define good with reference to evil because good is the original of which evil is the counterfeit—a problem parallel to defining the infinite in terms of the finite. Evil is an aberration. We need to look for a positive definition of good without reference to evil.

Love is the highest expression of holiness

Very significantly, the answer lies in the trinitarian being of God. Love is the epitome of all virtue and the highest expression of holiness. And God should not have to depend upon his creation to actualize his capacity to love, for that would make creation as important as the Creator because the Creator would be incomplete without his creation. But the Bible introduces love as an interpersonal quality requiring a subject-object relationship that is available in the Trinity because of the Father-Son relationship through the Holy Spirit. The trinitarian God is complete in his love relationship without reference to his creation. The Father loves the Son before the creation of the world (John 17:24). The infinite personal medium through whom this love is communicated is the Holy Spirit, and he is the one who pours the love of God in our hearts as well (Romans 5:5). The final answer that I could give to this college girl was to appeal to the Trinity, where good always existed without any reference to, outside of, and before evil…

Holiness is relational

The Ten Commandments that God gave to his people (Exodus 20:1–17) sum up God’s requirement in terms of relationships—with him and with one another. The Old Testament also sums up the commandments as love relationships with God (Deuteronomy 6:4–5) and among his people (Leviticus 19:18). In other words, holiness by God’s own definition (Leviticus 19:2) is seen in the relational commandments that comprise the rest of that chapter. Holiness is therefore not the stand-alone ascetic quality that is the hallmark of some Eastern religions but a community of people in right relationship to one another…

We are born to our parents and we grow in our understanding of ourselves as we learn to relate to parents, siblings, and friends. Simply put, I can’t be me without someone else; you can’t be you without reference to someone else. What makes a person a person is her (or his) capability of interpersonal relationship. In fact, we derive our most fundamental sense of identity by relating to God and other human beings. Moreover, the identity that we seek from impersonal entities such as achievement, fame, pleasure, and possessions—the hallmarks of today’s consumerist, shopping-mall existence—can be extremely inadequate and frustrating. To add to the confusion, we are deep into the use of gadgets and cyber-technology that is accelerating this tendency to depersonalization…

The lack of Trinitarian thinking and preaching has exacerbated the prevailing individualism of our culture and has brought it right into our Christian life and practice. If we do not think of God as a relational being in himself, we cannot appreciate the point that we are made to reflect his image in our relationships with one another…

Our response to the holiness of God is to reflect his character in our lives—in one phrase, the pursuit of holiness. In our endeavor in this direction, however, we need to be careful to note that what we have come to call personal holiness—what is inward—is only a potential that has to be constantly actualized in inter-personal relationships…

Trinitarian holiness

Holiness, in the final analysis, is therefore otherward and thus unselfconscious. I have been fascinated by the trinitarian example from John 5:19-27; 16:13, 14. The Father entrusts all things to the Son: his authority, his power over life and judgment. But the Son will not do anything by himself; he will only do what he sees the Father doing. The Spirit will not speak of himself nor seek his own glory. He will bring glory to Jesus by taking what belongs to Jesus and showing them to us.

Three self-giving, self-effacing persons constitute the amazing God whom we worship! It is this aspect of God’s character that we seek to reflect in our life and walk as the church of Jesus Christ.

–adapted from L.T. Jeyachandran

At the Center of Everything

“I and the Father are One”
is the center-truth of the universe.
And the encircling truth is,
“That they also may be one in us.”

–George MacDonald

Called to join the Dance

Our desire for God did not originate with us. We did not initiate the possibility of this relationship. The Trinity made it possible and kindled the desire within us. We do not initiate this relationship. It is God who invites us to join the trinitarian conversation already occurring. The triune God invites us to share in intimacy with God and summons us to enter the communion of self-giving love.

The dynamism of mutuality and self-giving
goes on everlastingly in the being of God,
and we are being drawn in.

Prayer is joining an already occurring conversation. The Spirit calls us to participate in the relationship of intimacy between Father and Son and be caught up in the dance already begun. In prayer on this earth we join the dance and begin to experience the movement and interplay of the trinitarian Persons.

–Clark Pinnock

We need a Trinity

A unipersonal god would not have within himself that eternal love or communion into which he would wish to introduce us. Nor would such a god become incarnate; instead he would instruct us from afar about how we were to live rightly.

–Dumitru Staniloae

Qualified to command love

There are other religions which claim belief in “one God,” and still others which worship many gods. But only Christianity embraces the magnificent reality of the Trinity, of three Divine Persons subsisting in perfect unity in the one Godhead.

Only a God who lives Himself in love can call upon a man and a women to love one another, let alone command all men to love their enemies.

This God alone embodies the power for gathering into the unit of love the vast multiplicity of mankind. He alone is at the same time the Creator, the Perfect Example, and the Transcender of personhood: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

–Mike Mason

The Stunning News

The one thing the early church knew for sure, that they were prepared to die for (and did) was, whatever else we say, the man Jesus Christ is God. They knew He was the Lord.

Furthermore, they realized that Jesus prayed to the one He called Father and they realized He was anointed in the Holy Spirit – that there is a relationship going on between the Father, Son and Spirit. They were not trying to develop a doctrine of the Trinity, and they took an enormous amount of flak from the Greeks and the Jews, being accused of polytheism and tri-theism. But the early church developed its understanding of the deity and humanity of Christ, of his relation with the Father and the Spirit – and they worked out the doctrine of the Trinity.

The early church came to realize that the deepest truth about God is the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And it’s not sad, it’s not boring, it’s not religious, it’s not dead – it’s alive, it’s creative, it’s other-centered. It’s about acceptance, and light, and life and love—and it’s beautiful! And that is what is fundamental about the being of God. If you peel back the onion of divine being, so to speak, and you come to the core of God-ness – you find the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Augustine knew that, and he wrote his beautiful treatise on the Trinity, but he was also steeped in Neo-Platonism. The premise of Neo-Platonism is: whatever else you say of God – or The One – it’s indivisible. And if it is indivisible, it can’t be relational. Augustine tried to develop a Christian vision, and at the same time maintain his Neo-Platonism – and what he offered to the Western Tradition is really two Gods. You have the Father, Son, and Spirit, and then you have “the deeper truth” about the being of God. And what is the essence, the deepest truth about God? For Augustine, it became, not relationship, but absolute, total sovereignty. And for the rest of the Western tradition, steeped as it was in Roman law and jurisprudence, it became a legal view of holiness.

I believe holiness is the deepest truth about God – but “holiness” within a Trinitarian vision. Holiness is the utter uniqueness and beauty and goodness and rightness of the divine relationship – that is the essence – the wholeness of the relationship, their love, mutual passion and delight.

You could call it the “great dance.” This is an ancient phrase that you find in the church. C.S. Lewis uses it a couple of times in some of his books. It describes, in a snapshot, the life of God. It’s a great dance. It’s not boring and sad – it’s not self-centered, it’s not narcissistic . . . it’s about fellowship, and communion, and love.

The apostle Paul said we are predestined to adoption – as sons and daughters. It makes perfect sense. If God is like this, then adoption is the main point. Paul said that the Father’s eternal purpose is to include us in this relationship. But we don’t have 1500 years of discussion about this. Why not? Because we have held to this other idea that the deepest truth of God is holiness – not Trinitarian holiness, not relational holiness—but holiness conceived in terms of moral law and jurisprudence.

Our “family conversation” for about 1500 years has been about the Holy God (which is true, God is holy) but not “holy” in a relational way. When Jesus says, “Be ye holy as God is holy,” he’s not talking about a stainless steel, antiseptic, squeaky clean, boring kind of holy. He is saying, be whole, be relationally together, be in fellowship and communion, be unique in this.

But the church embraced this other view holiness of God: stainless steel, moral rectitude, perfection – this God who calls the shots for the entire discussion. And we’ve found Bible verses to support it. And that’s why it’s so hard for us to understand the stunning news.

How stunning is it, that the only reason the human race exists is to be included in the Trinitarian life of God!

I would like to see a conversation about that. Give me 1500 years to talk about “adoption.” About the vision of God who is Father, Son, and Spirit, as opposed to the stainless steel, holy God who’s not interested in relationship at all.

–adapted from Baxter Kruger

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