What Makes a Worldview Most Christian?

What Makes a Worldview Most Christian? November 10, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 7.32.08 PMWhile many answers might be tossed on the table to answer this question, not least the cross and resurrection, Brian Harris, in his book The Big Picture: Building Blocks of a Christian World View, offers an approach to worldview that includes a topic that seems rarely put on the table but which just might be the most significant Christian “addition” to worldview discussions. The Trinity. He knows what many will says:

When people hear that you are about to speak on the Trinity, their eyes usually glaze over, and you sense that an internal conversation is progressing along the lines of ‘Oh dear. Here we go again. Another exercise in improbable mathematics and unconvincing analogies. Does it actually matter? (131).

Three persons, one being. Three in One God, separable but equal in being. Brian clarifies an important point:

In every action of God all three persons work together as one. This means that if you want to know what the Father thinks, you can ask the Son; if you want to know what the Son thinks, you can ask the Father. There is no tension or competition in the activities of the three persons of the Trinity. The Trinity is a communion of persons. Never think of God in solitary terms. God is never lonely for God is the perfect community of love – a love that is deeply relational. ‘God is love’ finds its first expression in the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity (132).

This Trinity — this communion at the heart of Godness, this Three-in-One-ness — is what distinguishes Christianity from Islam (as Miroslav Volf made clear in his book Allah). Brian also points to problems (esp down the road as Trinity works out in life) in modalism, in tritheism and in subordinationalism — it turns God into a hierarchy with the Father being the most important and the Spirit a distant third.

Harris also sketches “Rahner’s rule”: the economic Trinity and the immanent Trinity, the God of history and the God as God is in himself. Rahner argued that the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity and the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity, which means God’s revelation in history is true to who God actually is. We learn of God through what God has revealed in history. The God of the revelation in the incarnate, crucified and raised Son then is the real God.

OK, now then: What of the importance of Trinity for worldview?

The best apologetic for the church is when the church really is the church and does what church is designed to do. This church is participation in the perichoretic dance of the Trinity. The church ought to be a display of Trinity.

This means first of all that individualism finds its place in community not in aloneness.

This means we will be a community of surprise (the Father’s surprising revelations). The Creator God is full of explosive surprises throughout the universe, in creation and in redemption. Interaction, relationship, alteration, shift, change.

This means we will be a community of embrace (the Son’s embrace of us in redemption). Here we encounter love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration — and this is to be seen in the Trinitarian church. But what is the church  known for? Instead of God’s embrace we are known too often for God’s rejection or God’s headlock.

This means we will be a community of witness (the Spirit’s witness to the Father and Son). As the Spirit witnesses, so the church is a witness to Someone Else, not to itself. Bring back the Spirit and the church can be more of a witness.

He concludes:

For a brief moment forget every image that promptly springs into mind when you hear the word ‘church’. Imagine instead the rich Trinitarian life of the God revealed as Father, Son and Spirit. Ponder the way the Father is revealed though the pages of Scripture. Remember the embrace of the Son to a multitude of unlikely candidates. Recall the transformation of the disciples at Pentecost. If God will be who God has been, and if God will do what God has done, could it be that we can expect new versions of church to spring into being? Perhaps in the future we might participate in communities of surprise, embrace and witness. The nature of our triune God should prompt us to settle for nothing less. And if we were shaped by a God of surprise, embrace and witness, the emperor would no longer parade naked (147).

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  • Basement Berean

    The “church” is also known for inventing words that are not in the bible, like “trinity”, and then creating a seemingly infinite number of nuanced variations on the words, and fighting over the words, and then inventing three-dollar-words like “perichoresis” to describe the non-biblical words.

    Once I freed myself from the need (or should I say the desire) to come up with a single word to contain the Father (Jehovah), the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I was able to just read the text of scripture and believe what I read.

  • Brian also points to problems (esp down the road as Trinity works out in life) in modalism, in tritheism and in subordinationalism — it turns God into a hierarchy with the Father being the most important and the Spirit a distant third.

    This is an essential conversation for our sadly fractured Church. This theme you’ve started exploring about the Christian worldview is a critical one. I’d love to hear your perspectives on the Spirit and how he works in our ecclesiology to reach a world in need (and balm the Church’s self-inflicted wounds).

  • I don’t disagree. But it’s worth recognizing that the concept of the trinity isn’t extra-biblical…it’s an organization – a making-sense – of God, Logos, and Emmanuel all of whom are articulated in scripture.

  • Basement Berean

    Logos and Emmanuel are both Jesus, right?

  • “… it’s an organization – a making-sense…”

    Putting God in a man-made box?

  • Emmanuel is God With Us. After Jesus’ ascension, that’s the Holy Spirit…no?

  • “Putting God in a man-made box”…that seems like a great working definition of “theology”. Your caution is a good one that I appreciate. We need to recognize that all theology is a choice – an attempt to articulate what we see in the mirror darkly. I believe we need to hold our doctrine loosely with humility and recognize that we might be wrong.

  • Phil Miller

    So how do the three relate to each other in your opinion? The doctrine of the Trinity rightly explained isn’t an attempt to “put God in a box”. In a sense, it’s kind of an attempt at the opposite. It’s trying to prevent people from proposing hard and fast theories about the mysteries of God. I believe it was St. Augustine who said that dogma is a fence around the mysteries of God. It’s not an attempt to figure God out as much as it’s an attempt to set some limits around what can definitively be said about God.

  • Basement Berean

    No.

    “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
    Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
    “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

    The only way “Immanuel”, or “Emmanuel” is used in the text is as a name of Jesus. That is explicit and obvious.

  • ” … we need to hold our doctrine loosely with humility…”

    Beautifully articulated and contrary to some theological activity that presents itself: Piper vs. Boyd, for example.

  • Basement Berean

    Sorry I missed this a few days ago. I’ll will submit to you that the Trinity is itself a theory about the mysteries of God. Mysteries best left as such in this life. My opinion as to how Jesus and Jehovah relate to each other is informed by these scriptures.

    The Father knows the Son, and the Son knows the Father. Matt 11:27.
    The Father knows things that the Son does not. Matt 24:36
    The Father loves the Son. John 3:35
    The Son does what he sees his Father doing. John 5:19
    The Father shows the Son what He is doing. John 5:20
    The Father has given all judgement to the Son. John 5.22
    Jesus spoke what the Father told him. John 8:28

    Of course, how exactly the Father and the Son relate to each other now that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father is not something I have an opinion about, although I think Jesus does a lot of mediating for man (1 Timothy 2:5).

    The Holy Spirit?
    The Holy Spirit is given by the Father. Luke 11:13.
    The Holy Spirit filled Jesus. Luke 4:1.
    The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus when the Father said how pleased He was with Jesus. Luke 3:22
    The Spirit of God (which I assume is the Holy Spirit) gave Jesus power to cast out demons. Matt 12:28
    The Spirit of God knows the thoughts of God. 1 Cor 2:11

    But exactly how the Holy Spirit “relates” to God and Jesus in real time minute-by-minute is something I have no opinion on because I just don’t know, and I don’t know that any human can know such things.

    If I’ve missed something in scripture. Do tell.

  • Phil Miller

    Well, it was the early Church’s meditation on these verses that you posted to develop a doctrine of the Trinity. As I said earlier, I don’t think the doctrine was an attempt to figure out the inner workings of the Godhead – indeed that will always remain a mystery. I think it was an attempt to summarize what they saw laid out in Scripture and preserve it for future generations.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    I have to admit I’m a bit ambivalent about the doctrine and the theological usages of the concept of the trinity. From God’s point of view (that is what we’re striving for right?) it looks like a reasonable adaptation of Jewish (ie., biblical) perspectives and Greco-Roman approaches to Apostolic and New Testament data. You know, those Greek thinking brainiacs whom the Spirit got a hold of and brought into The Family of God who had to do some mental gymnastics to integrate this Jewish God and his messiah into their conceptual world–they had to have answers to the important questions within their philosophical matrix, didn’t they? Sometimes old wineskins hold theological wine for a while or two, but the new ones revelationally given will preserve it indefinitely. It isn’t exactly clear from scripture that mankind was granted dominion over a universal conceptual space theologically, but that is plainly what s/he desired to have: the ability to decide what is right and wrong, even conceptually. So, it shouldn’t surprise followers of Christ when we encounter conceptual Pharisees. If for no other reason than that they provide a useful dialogical foil on the road toward less complex and more livable guidelines for following Jesus. Trinitarian communal love, perichoretic dance, economic and the immanent aspects, etc., etc. They do seem to have theri homiletical uses. If only Jesus had explained all these things to us we wouldn’t need to spend so much time talking and arguing about these developed traditions of meaning and we could move on to witnessing to Jesus and calling disciples to follow him, teaching the things he taught instead of things he didn’t, rehearsing the narrative bequeathed to us by the apostles instead of the absence of narrative instantiated in concilliar doctrines and the adumbrations of traditions passed down to us. Concentrating on the things we can understand, the things that have been explained to us in and through scripture would likely leave us a lot less time to spend on speculations about things that haven’t been revealed to us, however important they may make us feel.

  • Basement Berean

    Phil,

    True enough, but there were heresies to fight too, and some needed to be fought against, but I think the councils went a bit too far.