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Blogging Through the Trinity (part 2)

Dr. Ware began the morning with a moving lesson on what he calls the “poor god” syndrome that so many churches suffer from.  Ware describes this syndrome as the tendency of Christians to believe that they are somehow doing God a favor by getting saved, or serving in their local church, or giving to missions, as if these acts somehow makeup for a deficiency in God.  The truth of the matter is that God is completely self-sufficient and without any need whatsoever.  The fact that believers are allowed to participate in God’s work is an act of sheer grace intended to maximize our joy.

Another interesting thing that I learned today is that the doctrine of the trinity is a subject of great disagreement today.  Millard Erickson along with several other leading theologians are engaged in a significant battle with Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware over the nature of the trinity, specifically the rolls within the trinity.  It is Erickson’s position that any distinctions that we see between the Father, the Son and the Spirit are merely present because of the created order but in actuality there are no distinctions within the Godhead whatsoever.  Ware’s position is essentially that the distinctions within the Godhead are not based on any ontological differences, but rather are based upon the roles and relationships within the Godhead.  Several books have been written on this topic and it was a major source of discussion this year at the Evangelical Theological Society.

The roles which Ware went on to describe include the Father as being supreme among the persons of the Godhead (1 Cor. 15:28), the Son and his three offices as the eternal Son, the incarnate Son, and the exalted Son, all the while remaining a Son.  The position which Jesus occupies as the Son implies His submission to the will of the Father during His incarnation, as well as eternity past and eternity to come.

I walked away with several significant application points from today’s class.  1) Submission to authority is a godlike act, because Jesus always submits to the authority of the Father.  The culture which we find ourselves living in today is full of rebellion against authority and yet the submission of the Son to the Father reminds us that to submit to the authorities in our lives is to imitate God in the person of Jesus Christ.  2) To abide in Christ and to experience the full warmth of fellowship with Christ we must obey Christ.  Dr. Ware spent some time reviewing John 15:9-10 – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”  In this passage Jesus is teaching that there is an intimate connection between our ability to abide in Christ and our obedience.  To abide is not simply to have warm-fuzzy feelings about God, but rather to obey Christ and in that obedience to find rest and peace and warmth and intimacy with God.

That’s it for today.  Tomorrow Dr. Ware will be covering Christ’s relationship to the Holy Spirit and wrapping up the section on the trinity.

January 06 2010 | Trinity | Comments Off on Blogging Through the Trinity (part 2)

Blogging Through the Trinity (part 1)

Today was the first day of class and we certainly started off with a bang.  In the introduction Dr. Ware explained that he was going to take 3 days of the class to cover the doctrine of the trinity and the last 3 days to cover the doctrine of providence.  Ware pointed out that in order to understand the trinity you must understand providence and in order to understand providence you must understand the trinity, because God operates as a triune God even in His providence.

Course Introduction

One of the big objectives that Dr. Ware has for the class is to open our eyes to the proliferation of Trinitarian texts within the Bible, especially the New Testament.  The problem is that as NT Christians we often times read these texts as if the author were repeating himself, but in actuality he is saying something very specific.  Take Ephesians 1:1 for example, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will God…”  For years I’ve read that text as if Paul were somehow repeating himself.  “Paul…something about God…something else about God’s will.”  What Dr. Ware pointed out was that Paul was actually saying something very specific in this passage.  Paul is emphasizing the fact that God the Father is master designer and architect of all things, including the fact that Paul would be an apostle of the Father’s Son Jesus Christ who is responsible for carrying out the will of the Father.  What we find repeatedly in Scripture is a taxis (order for the Godhead) whereby the Father is the one who orders and designs all things, the Son is the one who executes and accomplishes, and the Spirit is the one who mediates out all things in relation to God’s people.

Biblical and Historical Overview

Dr. Ware wrapped up his introduction by describing the two pillars of Trinitarian doctrine (Distinction and Identity).  The first pillar of distinction refers to the fact that each member of the Godhead is a distinct person, not to be confused with the other members of the Godhead.  The second pillar of identity refers to the fact that while each of the person’s of the Godhead is distinct in their personhood, they are of the exact same essence or nature.  What is meant by that is that the nature of the persons of the Godhead is of a far greater equality because it is an equality of identity, unlike any other beings identity.  For example, if you put three people in a room it would be safe to say that those three people are equal in their value as human beings.  Yet, if one of those people were to die it would not affect the other two because they are equal in that they have the same kind of nature.  God is unique in that each member of the Godhead is a distinct expression of the exact same nature, not just the same kind as are human beings.  This is the source and foundation of monotheism within the Scriptures that God, while existing in three persons, is one one nature.

In the second part of class Dr. Ware went through a number of different passages affirming monotheism as a thoroughly biblical doctrine (Genesis 1:1; Deut. 6:4; Isaiah 45:5-7; Isaiah 46:9; James 2:19; and others).  After which he followed up with a series of Trinitarian passages (John 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; John 1:1; and Hebrews 1) and an overview of the first four church councils, which were primarily concerned with various aspects of the trinity.

Significant Definitions and Statements

Definition of the Trinity –  “God’s whole and undivided essence belongs equally, eternally, simultaneously, and fully to each of the three Persons of the Godhead, so that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each is fully God while each is his own personal expression, in role and activity, of the one eternal and undivided divine essence.”

Equality of Essence – “The Christian faith affirms that there is one and only one God, eternally existing while fully and simultaneously expressed in three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each member of the Godhead is equally God, each is eternally God, and each is fully God—not three gods but three Persons of the one Godhead. Each Person is equal in essence as each possesses fully the identically same and eternal divine nature, yet each is also an eternal and distinct personal expression of that one undivided divine nature.”

Distinction of Roles and Relations – “Because of this, what distinguishes each Person of the Godhead from each other is not and cannot be the divine nature of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This—the one and undivided divine nature—is possessed equally, eternally, simultaneously, and fully by each of the three Persons of the Godhead. So, what distinguishes the Son from Father and Spirit is not the divine nature of the Son. This (divine nature) is possessed also equally and fully by the Father and Spirit. What distinguishes each Trinitarian Person is his particular role in relation to the other Trinitarian Persons, and the relationships that he has with each of the others. What, then, characterizes the distinct roles and relationships of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Consider the answer to this question by focusing on the Son and his relations to the Father and Spirit, respectively.”

January 05 2010 | Trinity | Comments Off on Blogging Through the Trinity (part 1)

Blogging Through the Trinity (Introduction)

I’m writing this post as I sit in a beautiful restaurant on the corner of Sepulveda and Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles.  The sky scrapers are rising above me, there is no rain (something to be truly thankful for), and my family is in Visalia with Amy’s parents enjoying some grandma and grandpa time.

When I was in seminary one of my favorite times of year was winter break because during winter break TMS always brought in top level scholars to teach on various topics (i.e. Wayne Grudem on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Steve Lawson on preaching the Psalms, etc.).  One of the benefits of being an alumnus of TMS is now that I’ve graduated I am invited to attend any of these Winterim classes for free!  This year, with a baby due in early April I’ve decided to forego the Shepherds’ Conference (happening in March) and to attend this year’s Winterim with Dr. Bruce Ware on the Doctrine of the Trinity.

In order to assist me in this study I’ve decided to write summary posts for each day of class, as a way for me to synthesize what I’ve been learning and to share some of the choicest lessons and insights with my readers (that’s right I’m looking at you mom 🙂 ).  The posts will probably follow about a day behind as I’m going to need some time to process the class myself, but I will be posting everyday this week, so keep an eye on the blog for lots of new content.

January 04 2010 | Trinity | Comments Off on Blogging Through the Trinity (Introduction)

What Breaks God’s Heart (Unrequited Love)

DSC03398%20Lonely%20tree%20on%20shorelilne%20bSeveral years ago my Pastor (then at Riverlakes Community Church) preached a series on “What Breaks God’s Heart”.  The title has always stuck out to me and I have often times meditated on what does break God’s heart.  The Bible is full of explicit references to the heart of God being deeply moved, even moved to tears over the heartache in this fallen world.  This is the third in a series of posts on What Breaks God’s Heart

 One of the saddest things that a pastor has to deal with is trying to restore a marriage gone bad.  By the time a couple comes for help it is usually almost too late.  There have been too many hurtful words, too many silent accusations, too many lonely nights and too many destructive habits begun.  On occasion, a pastor may find a marriage gone wrong where one spouse still wants to try and that is probably the hardest thing of all.  It is good because it gives hope to the marriage that at least someone wants to work on it, but it is heart breaking to see the other spouse respond with a stone cold heart.

As I continue to meditate on the question, “What breaks God’s heart?”  I’m reminded that the Bible often describes God’s relationship with his people as the relationship of a husband and wife.  As a husband God provides for them, He nurtures them, and He showers love upon them.  Tragically, one of the most common descriptions of God’s wife is that of a prostitute or an adulteress.  Despite all of the grace and care that God lavishes upon His people they continue to return to their sin and to their idols. 

This tragic reality is most starkly set forth in the Old Testament book of Hosea.  God commanded the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer and to take her into his home.  In spite of this great kindness, Gomer returned to her life of prostitution and ended up a wretched and defiled woman.  As Hosea recounts this story God periodically breaks into the narrative to explain how Gomer’s harlotry is exactly the same as His own wife’s idolatry and how His people’s sin is going to bring terrible consequences upon them.  In chapter 11 the Lord recounts how He cared for Israel as a young nation and how He took them in His arms and lead them with bonds of love, when suddenly He cries out:

How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled.

As we read this account and consider God’s anguish over His wife’s rejection, we must be careful not to think of God as being needy.  It is not that God needs His people to love Him.  God is not diminished in any way whatsoever, by a lack of affection.  At the same time, it is clear that there is a legitimate heartfelt response on the part of God to His unrequited love.

That which was true of Israel in the days of Hosea is still true of us today.  As a husband God greatly loves the church (1 John 4:19) and as a wife we break God’s heart when we refuse to return His love by delighting in Him and Him alone.  The flip side of this truth is the great joy that God takes in His bride and in her faithfulness.  Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  The paradox seems to be that what breaks God’s heart is unrequitted love, but what rejoices God’s heart is His children.

July 13 2009 | What Breaks God's Heart | Comments Off on What Breaks God’s Heart (Unrequited Love)

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