Avoiding Trinity image

Avoiding Trinity

I remember being told not to start sharing Jesus with a Muslim from John’s gospel, because John begins heavy on the Trinity. And we surely we want to find common ground before we get onto such complexity.

It betrays two assumptions.
Firstly that Trinity really is weird. We are after all those who believe that our God created eggs in his own likeness, in the likeness of God he created shell, yoke and white? We avoid it because we don’t have the faintest idea how to talk about it.
Secondly, it reveals, in hindsight, the assumption that Trinity is something at the margins of Christianity rather than the middle.  Trinity is for the hyper-spiritual geeks not for the ordinary Christian.
But follow the logic.
Share Jesus from Matthew instead? When you get past the genealogy Jesus is introduced as Immanuel (1:23).
So that’ll be Jesus being God with us. Plus, there’s that quote from Hosea that calls Jesus “my son” (Matt 2:15). The Son who is God with us. Not forgetting that Matthew ends with baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Maybe Luke is safer?
Luke 1:35 tells us Mary’s child will be “Son of God” conceived by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.
So that’s the Son of the Father in the power of the Spirit.
And Luke’s major thrust is that Jesus is the Son of the Father who enjoys his joyful relationship with his Father by the Holy Spirit. Even his prayers at the cross are to Father.
Father, Son and Spirit in joy-filled relationship.
Perhaps Mark is less troubling in our quest to avoid the Trinity?
Most obviously this falls down as Jesus gets baptised in Mark 1:11-12. That’ll be the Father announcing his pleasure at his Spirit-anointed Son. But, that’s not the half of it.
Mark begins with “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Good news about Jesus the Spirit-anointed Son of the Father.
That’s about as Trinitarian as you can get.
This is Jesus, the focal point of the Triune life.
Meanwhile John tells us that Jesus the Word of the Father was always with his Father even before creation, shining out the radiance of his Father’s glory (1:1-5) as he expounds Genesis 1.
(Just imagine for a moment the richness of John coming to visit your church one Sunday morning, picking up the scroll of Genesis 1, reading it, and beginning to preach the text. Make sure your recording equipment is working that morning because you’re about to get chapter 1 of John’s gospel…)
It’s Jesus who makes his unseen Father known (1:18), whether to Moses with whom he met face to face, or Isaiah who saw his glory, or Abraham who went for a walk under the stars with him, or to men and women on the streets of Palestine.
Trinity is unavoidable if we want to know who Jesus is.
No wonder the Athanasian creed says that Trinity is THE essential belief.
In none of these cases are we starting with some complex doctrine of Trinity, rather in each case we’re starting with Jesus. And we’re noting that Son of God and Christ aren’t just obscure titles, but they’re descriptions of the Triune life that Jesus participates in, and invites us into.
Jesus only makes sense when we see him not as the solitary Saviour of the world, but as the Spirit-filled Son. The salvation he brings isn’t a good man appeasing an angry God it’s the plan of the Triune community together. All things being done by and through and for the Son.
And then the life Jesus brings us into – eternal life – of knowing the Father and his Son by the Spirit is equally Triune. Our participation in the life of God.
Avoiding Trinity means avoiding who Jesus is and what he came to bring us into. If I do that with a Muslim I may as well just become a Muslim because my “good news” is going to sound more like “fear God and behave” than receive Jesus and enter into relationship with his Father as we share in Jesus’ death and his resurrection. One life ended a new life begun.
Trinity is good news.

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