The Payoff of Doctrine

Last Tuesday we started the context track of e4 at church. e4 is a program we’ve developed and designed to lay deep foundations of Christian faith and practice. It’s intense and challenging, a bit like drinking from a fire hose, but we’ve seen great results and this year’s group is really excited about the program.

The context track deals with theology, church history, and culture. The first session is on the Trinity, and even though it was the same night the Buckeyes’ played in the Sugar Bowl, we had a full house and some great conversation. The Trinity is a difficult subject to tackle because it defies explanation; it presses the boundaries of human intellect and language. We don’t have any good metaphors to help us understand. The doctrine of the Trinity strips your intellect naked, revealing in what you finally trust–human reason or the character of God. Personally, I couldn’t believe in a God I can fully explain and understand. The doctrine of the Trinity helps me to have faith and is, in a strange sense, a satisfactory proof (for me) of God’s existence: If God exists, he must in some way be beyond our comprehension. The doctrine of the Trinity is beyond our comprehension. Therefore, the God known as the Trinity must exist.

But that’s not the real payoff of learning the doctrine of the Trinity. Tom, one of our most faithful e4 participants (I call them e4eigners), asked about the internal dynamics: “Is there a hierarchy within the Trinity?” What a great question! I thought it about for a bit, running through the Scriptures in my mind, and answered that there was not. The Son submits to the Father; the Father glorifies the Son; the Father and Son honor the Spirit; the Spirit speaks only what he hears from the Father and Son.

What we find at the heart of the Trinity is not hierarchy, but humility. Each member defers to the others. Each member glorifies the others. The very nature of God–that he is three-in-one–is held together by total humility manifesting itself in agape love. This is why John can say, plainly, “God is love”. There is no striving for position or selfish ambition within the Trinity; there is only complete and total humility and selflessness. The payoff of the doctrine of the Trinity is the invitation to possess in part what he possesses in full: humility. The nature of the Trinity teaches us to be humble enough to be unified with our brothers and sisters in Christ in this life. Pride and arrogance make unity impossible, but humility makes it inevitable.

Be humble, then, as God is humble. Defer to your brothers and sisters. Praise them publicly. Speak exceedingly well of them behind their backs. Listen well. Take correction without becoming defensive. The doctrine of the Trinity compels us to pursue utmost humility and manifest it in agape love.

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