Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Statement of Faith Project – Part 2

In this series, I am sharing with you my first draft of a statement of faith that I have been commissioned to write.  It may or may not be used, but I have found it an enriching experience to work through this.

In my last post, I gave my statement about the scriptures.  This post I want to give you my first draft describing our Triune God.  Please feel free to let me know what you like, what you would change, what you would add or take away.  I would appreciate any input you have for me.

The Triune God
In the beginning is community.  Scripture and subsequent creeds testify that before the foundation of the world, for all eternity, God has existed as Father, Son and Spirit in perfect community.  While there is but one sovereign, holy, merciful and loving God, who created and sustains all things, he is neither lonely nor alone.  From the beginning, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been in an unending dance of mutual enjoyment and love for one another.


9 Responses to Statement of Faith Project – Part 2

  1. arlenerauen says:

    I really like this ALOT

  2. Joel Esala says:

    Nicely worded and inviting. Two thoughts…I’ve wondered if prior to a statement of Trinity should come a statement about Jesus. The only reason we have a doctrine of the Trinity is because in the last days, God has spoken to us in his Son. I know the order you have here is probably more standard. But “Jesus is Lord” is the earliest confession of the church, and should perhaps be reflected in our statements of faith. Secondly, I worry about the trendiness of social Trinitarianism. Does this formulation of Trinity as community in effect posit three gods who really like each other, as opposed to one God in three persons? Does our love for this formulation of Trinity say more about our desire for community rather than what God has actually revealed? Would Augustine recognize this as the Trinity? I like the attempt to translate “one substance in three persons” into contemporary idiom, but I’m not sure “community” is the right word. Of course I don’t have any better suggestions. Just something to think about. Those things said, I like what you are doing. I’ve wanted to try the same thing and may steal some of your work!

  3. JR Woodward says:

    Joel,

    It’s always good to have a word from you. I appreciate your words and your cautions. I will have to consider the order. While we may only have clarity of this doctrine because of Jesus, reality still starts with a Triune God. So I will have to think about that. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts after you see the whole flow of the statement.

    As you know, while the Trinity is a reality reality revealed in scripture, the doctrine of the Trinity is the church’s attempt to give a greater understanding and explanation of the Father, Son and Spirit. As you say Augustine has given the church an amazing gift in this area. Because it is second-order speech, the articulation of the doctrine of the Trinity has continued to evolve, and I don’t think we should fear this. Leonardo Boff in Trinity and Society makes the case that there are three primary developments of Trinitarian thought, each of which arose to address particular errors of a given culture and time. (p. 77-78). First, in Roman culture, where polytheism was prevalent, the Latin fathers emphasized the oneness of God. When the Greek fathers were battling Arianism or modalism, they focused on the diversity in God, and came to unity through diversity. Finally, in our context, where individualism often reigns, there is a need to focus on the social Trinity, looking at the rich, mutually encouraging, and mutual dependent relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit. So I’m with Boff on this one.

  4. I love the allusion to perichoresis. Perhaps you could more intentionally highlight the mystery and paradox of God as One and Three.

  5. JR Woodward says:

    Jamie,

    That is a good point, and that might also partly answer some of Joel’s concerns.

  6. Joel Esala says:

    I think Jamie’s suggestion is a good one. As it stands now, there is no clear affirmation of oneness. I wonder how would this statement about the being of God look to a Muslim, for whom the oneness of God is so important? Unity and diversity are good translation words you might you. The danger of so greatly emphasizing diversity, “In the beginning is community” is that the doctrine sounds like tritheism.

    • JR, the nature of your paragraphs are such that you cannot unpack the concepts fully. Few ideas are more challenging in theology than Trinity. Therefore, perhaps an acknowledgment of mystery is what is needed. Start with the Oneness of God and speak wonder of the mystery of His Threeness.

  7. JR Woodward says:

    Joel and Jamie,

    Thank you so much for interacting with me on this. It is helpful. While I try to make the case for the oneness of God in sentence three, I will consider how to strengthen this.

    What do you think of the way Stanley Grenz summarizes key elements of the doctrine of the Trinity? He says, God is one, God is three. God is diversity, God is unity. Or as Cunningham says “God is difference-in-unity”.

    I think that my third sentence guards against the error or tritheism. But we also need to guard against modalism, which Barth was at times unfairly criticized of being, especially in our context of radical individualism. According to Boff, there are dangers that come with emphasizing God is one, apart from God as Tri-unity. In his opinion it has “led to totalitarianism in politics, authoritariansim in religion, paternalism in society, and machismo in the family.” These are just a few of the reasons I think an emphasis on the communal aspect of our one God is important.

    Some theologians start with “God is one”, like Grenz. In contrast, Pannenberg, Moltmann and our Eastern brothers and sisters start with “God is three”, reminding us that this is the distinctively Christian understanding of God.

    Certainly the purpose and context of this statement of faith would answer some of the questions of how this would appear to Muslims.

    Nonetheless, I will seek to strength God is one, while still having an important emphases an God as Tri-unity. Again, thanks for the conversation. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on my statement about humanity.

    • JR, I think the emphasis on the Trinitarian nature of God is essential. My suggestion to start with God’s Oneness is two-fold: first, it disarms critiques might suggest you go too far; second, because the true oneness cannot exist individually. In other words, the nature of true Oneness is, by necessity, relational. Our individuality is disintegrated by sin, giving us the illusion that the individual apart is one. However, God made us in His image, male & female. Both otherness and plurality is essential to our identity as God’s image-bearers. What we reflect imperfectly is explicit and perfect in God- that Oneness is only truly one with Three.

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