A Gospel Without the Trinity

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The laughter of the Trinity

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The story . . . begins not with God alone, the Author at his desk, but God in relationship, intimacy beyond our wildest imagination, heroic intimacy.

The Trinity is at the center of the universe;
perfect relationship is the heart of all reality.

Think of your best moments of love or friendship or creative partnership, the best times with family or friends around the dinner table, your richest conversations, the acts of simple kindness that sometimes seem like the only things that make life worth living. Like the shimmer of sunlight on a lake, these are reflections of the love that flows among the Trinity.

We long for intimacy because we are made
in the image of perfect intimacy.

. . . Real love creates a generous openness. Have you ever been so caught up in something that you just had to share it? When you are walking alone in the woods, something takes your breath away—a sunset, a waterfall, the simple song of a bird—and you think, If only my beloved were here. The best things in life were meant to be shared […] Overflowing with the generosity that comes from the abundance of real love, [God] creates us to share in the joy of this heroic intimacy. One early mystic says were were created out of the laughter of the Trinity.

–John Eldredge
The Sacred Romance

The communal life of God

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Trinity is a conceptual attempt to provide coherence to God as God is revealed variously as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our Scriptures: God is emphatically personal; God is only and exclusively God in relationship. Trinity is not an attempt to explain or define God by means of abstractions (although there is some of that, too), but a witness that God reveals himself as personal and in personal relations. The down-to-earth consequence of this is that God is rescued from the speculations of the metaphysicians and brought boldly into a community of men, women, and children who are called to enter into his communal life of love, of emphatically personal life where they experience themselves in personal terms of love and forgiveness, of hope and desire.

Under the image of the Trinity
we discover that we do not know God
by defining him but by being loved by him
and loving in return.

–Eugene Peterson
Christ Plays in a Thousand Places
(emphasis added)

Unity in diversity

Trinity 24

For it is only when 
you grasp what it means 
for God to be a Trinity 
that you really sense the beauty, 
the overflowing kindness, 
the heart-grabbing loveliness 
of God.

–Mike Reeves 

Too good for words

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Why would Jesus do this? Why would he stoop to become human? He had no need of this. He has forever known his Father and enjoyed his Father’s full attention and affection. He has forever shared the concert of life with his Father in the Spirit. Why would he take the time and pain of earthing this fellowship of life? Why would the Triune God do such a thing? Was it because of some deficiency in their fellowship? Was it because of boredom? Of course not! The only reason to earth and humanize this eternal home-life was to share it, with us. As one of the ancients put it, Jesus became “what we are that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself” (St. Irenaeus). Is this not too good for words?

–Baxter Kruger
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Image: Maxime Courty

Trinity changes everything

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Knowing that our God, the Trinitarian God, is the true God changes everything and happily so. Only in a God who is triune would we expect to find creativity, generosity, diversity, relationality and so much more.

What kind of a Bible would this God give to us? It would be a gift, not a burden. It would probably be chock full of different kinds of writings from different authors in different cultures and different languages. It would reflect the glorious multi-coloured diversity and abundant generosity of a world created by this kind of God.

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I suppose we’d expect to find everything from engaging narrative to stirring poetry to rousing speeches and thrilling epic adventure and glimpses into the past and visions of the future. I think it would make you want to sing, to cry, to laugh, to celebrate, to contemplate, to marvel, to thrill, to share, to give, to live in response to all that is found there…

Only a Trinitarian God would give us a Book like that.

–Peter Mead

What life is about

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Overflowing Life

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God is not some faceless, all-powerful abstraction. God is Father, Son and Spirit, existing in a passionate and joyous fellowship.

The Trinity is not three
highly committed religious types
sitting around some room in heaven.

The Trinity is a circle of shared life, and the life shared is full, not empty, abounding and rich and beautiful, not lonely and sad and boring. The river begins right there, in the fellowship of the Trinity. The great dance is all about the abounding life shared by the Father, Son and Spirit.

-C. Baxter Kruger
The Great Dance
(emphasis added)

The overflowing Fellowship

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God is not a bookkeeper or an old professor or some kind of divine black hole who is so angst-ridden, so lonely and bored and needy he sucks the life out of everything around him. God exists as a triune relationship–Father, Son and Spirit. And it is not a dead or empty relationship. The Father, Son and Spirit are not like three bronze statues in the park–speechless, motionless, heartless. The Father likes His Son. He loves him, is absolutely thrilled with him, bursting with pride over him (Matthew 3:17; 17:5 and John 5:19-20). And the Son adores his Father, loves Him with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength in the freedom and fellowship of the Spirit.

Far from being frozen in some lifeless pose,
the Father, Son and Spirit live in a circle
of eager and lavish hospitality.

It is a circle of passionate embracing, of mutual acceptance, delight and love, which issues forth not in sadness or depression or misery but in unchained life–joyous, overflowing fellowship. The early theologians of the church were quite right when they spoke of the triune life of God as a divine dance. It is not dead, but alive, good, right, unstifled, overflowing, creative…

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The gospel is all about the fact that the Son of God, who enjoys life with his Father in the fellowship of the Spirit, became human–came across to our side of the table–so that he could share nothing less than this life with us. And he was sent not only to share this life with us but also to deal once and for all with our alienation from it. What good would it do for the grandparent to stoop to the grandchild if the grandchild were blind, deaf and mute? But, if in stooping, the grandparent could also heal, well then that is the point. Jesus came to share his rich life with us, and he came to do what was necessary–even at profound cost to himself–to heal us so that we could know and live in his life with him.

–C. Baxter Kruger
The Secret

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

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

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

The Inner Life of God

The scriptures speak much about divine life or eternal life.  We need to understand that it is not only the quantity of life that is depicted, but it is the quality of life that is most important.  Eternal life is divine life, that is, the very life essence of the Triune God.  Eternal life is the “stuff” that makes up the Divine Trinity.  This is a community life.  This is a life of oneness.  This is a life of co-working and co-operation.  This is a life of profound fellowship and unity.  This is a life of complete self-dedication to one another and a laying down of life for one another.  This is the inner life of God!

–Milt Rodriguez

The Rhythm of the Trinity

Father, Son, and Spirit . . . [are engaged in a] dance which is their life together, a dance without beginning and without end, a dance which is joy beyond all telling.

. . . The music of this eternal dance echoes in the vast reaches between the stars, and pulses in worlds inside of atoms, and travels on every breeze across the earth, and surges with the blood through our veins. From time to time, we hear the music of this eternal dance. During the silences when everything makes sense; during the celebrations when we taste a bit of heaven . . . When we are thankful for what we’ve been given, proud of what we’ve done, hopeful about what the future holds. It is on these great and good occasions that we hear the music of the eternal dance, the rhythm of the Trinity . . .

The Trinity is unending, joyous dance, yet the miracle is that the circle breaks open, and the Son and Spirit, still holding hands with the Father, extend their other hands to us, inviting us into the circle, drawing us into the dance, that we may become their partners, participants in their life.

–Author unknown

Published in: on 05/20/2012 at 16:12  Leave a Comment  
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Learning how to dance

As human beings, we relate to one another in the “dance of life” on this planet. The relationships between the three Persons of the Trinity—”dynamic, interactive, loving, serving”—form the model for our human dance steps. Unfortunately, through sinfulness we corrupt the dance into a choreography of conflict.

However, now through the Gospel, Christians have been brought into a special relationship with the triune God. Through Christ’s incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension, and by the regenerating action of the Spirit, we prodigals have been brought home and embraced by our Father. Gathered into the household of faith, we now enjoy the feast of the fatted calf, and participate in the dance party that is taking place in the Father’s house. In this way we exemplify the reality and nature of God and bring his Good News to a world that has forgotten how to dance.

–Michael Spencer

Trinity is Essential

Christians say God is who you know when you know Jesus.

Jesus introduces us to the Triune God.

Only the Son knows the Father, and anyone to whom the Son makes him known.

Start somewhere else and you end up somewhere else.

If the Father did not send his Son in the power of the Spirit to bring us home into the life of God then we have no gospel, we have no Christianity. No other god is worth knowing or telling about.

“Without the gospel everything is useless and vain”, as John Calvin put it. “Seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.”

Trinity is gospel.

Or in the immortal words of Athanasius’ creed: the saved are those who hold to Trinity.

Strong stuff, but what is salvation if not entering into the life of the Triune God?

What else is a Christian but someone who knows this God?

Christianity isn’t a ticket to heaven.

Christianity is what happens when you’re joined with Jesus and step inside his life.

Do you need to be able to articulate that fully? No – but it’s not exactly complicated, it’s beautiful.

Just look at Jesus.

–Dave Bish


People become like their God

“Show me your gods and I will show you your people.” This adage holds true. If our concept of God is that of a Solitary Divine Dictator, it follows that we will be suspicious, critical, harsh, cold and condemning. Strong on “truth” and short on love. Joyless members of the righteous remnant. We unconsciously reflect the character of the Divine Being we believe in.

Not exactly inviting when your God is like Caesar.

If, on the other hand, we have been caught up in the self-giving love of the Triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit; if we have tasted and seen the unspeakable goodness and grace of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, how can we not be humble, grateful, and generous?

We will reflect the overflowing kindness and magnanimity of our God.

Forgiven people forgive; welcomed people welcome others; the recipients of grace bestow grace. Their failures have been overwhelmed by mercy—and they can now act accordingly. Those who have been drawn into the abounding life of the Triune God find themselves spreading kindness and goodness and joy.

They have been blessed and can afford to bless others—even the ones who are not very agreeable, or doctrinally correct. They don’t need to zero in on other’s errors, because their heavenly Father doesn’t. They can be generous with words, attitudes and resources, because they have come to know a God of unstoppable goodness. They can value relationships, because that is what the Three-in-One God is all about. They can love the lost in all their lostness, because that’s the kind of love heaven lavishes on sinners.

People become like their God.

And if that is the case, you will want to make sure you’ve got the right God—the Triune God who lives in the Eternal Dance of glory, goodness and grace. The God of Calvary love. The God Christ came to reveal.

There is one way of knowing what He is really like—look at Jesus. Look at the cross. Only the Son knows the Father, and those to whom the Son makes Him known.

He is a God who lays down his life for others. That is what actually goes on inside the Trinity! Self-sacrificing love. One author described Him as a Supreme Being of “fathomless unselfishness.” The cross was not an accident. It is what this Triune Community is all about. It is what the Bible means when it says, “God is love.” What an amazing Deity He turns out to be!

And to believe in Him is to become like Him.

A belief in the Divine Dictator tends to produce mean-spirited people. And there’s no reason to become a part of that crowd—because that god doesn’t exist.

Moreover, it is highly desirable to pattern one’s life after the true God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He looks exactly like Jesus—and we have never ever seen anyone as wonderful as Him!

–Jurgen Schulz

Love, life and beauty

The triune God
is the love behind all love,
the life behind all life,
the music behind all music,
the beauty behind all beauty.

–Mike Reeves

Published in: on 04/30/2012 at 10:01  Leave a Comment  
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Coming home

Within the divine life there abides an eternal relationship of self-giving, mutual, and shared love. Father, Son, and Spirit deeply and intimately know one another. There is no fear, shame, or insecurity in their knowledge of one another. Father and Son dwell in a face-to-face relationship with the Spirit as the bond of love that unites them. This relationship is so profoundly complete and pure that there is no other way to describe it than that they are in one another [perichoresis]. This free, full, and overflowing love is the central quality of the home-life of God. This is the love we are called to share in the gospel…

The staggering truth of our relationship with God is that the love we experience is no less than the eternal love shared between Father, Son, and Spirit. Through union with Christ in the Spirit we enter into this divine love. We participate in the home-life of the Triune God. We are home!

–Rich Vincent

Invited into the Inner Circle

Here we have a window into the deep inner truth of Christianity. The life of the Holy Trinity—the relationship and beauty and passion, the creative and joyous and abounding fellowship of the Father, Son and Spirit, the love of the Triune God—is given to us in Jesus Christ, shared with our innermost beings . . . Such is the kingdom of God and the very meaning of salvation.

–Baxter Kruger

Unstoppable goodness

Heaven is the pervading active presence of the Triune God. Because God is love, in heaven love flows like a mighty river and everyone will be swept up by the force and delight of its self giving passion. Because God is joy, in heaven no one is sour and somber; the atmosphere is alive with humour and laughter and enjoyment. Because God is holy, nothing will ever diminish or tarnish the unstoppable force of everlasting goodness and beauty.

–Jurgen Schulz

Published in: on 09/14/2011 at 0:35  Leave a Comment  
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The heavenly dream

The God of orthodox Christianity is a God who loves undeserving, vile sinners with an unconditional love, a God who voluntarily suffers on the cross the hellish nightmare that the sin of these sinners produces, in order that they might share in the heavenly dream he has for them. This is a God who sent his own eternal Son and gave his own eternal Spirit to envelop these sinners with his own eternal love and cause them to share in the eternal joy of this eternal triune fellowship.

–Gregory Boyd

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