A call for a Trinitarian missional alliance
by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2011, at 2:44 pm
The Bible is primarily, exclusively, and essentially about the work of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christianity, by extension, is a religion of this Triune God. Sadly, the Trinitarian doctrine that helped to unify Christians in the early church has lost its appeal as a point of alliance for Christians today. Thankfully, Philip Ryken and Micheal LeFebvre have provided what I consider to be a way forward in unifying Christians to see that church fulfills her calling in Our Triune God: Living in the Love of the Three-in-One.
The authors remind readers that to know God is to know the Creator as Triune: "We praise the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit for having equal, divine majesty, while at the same time honoring each Person's unique personality." The first chapter explains that the plan of salvation requires the active engagement of every Person of the Trinity (Ephesians 1:3-14). Many Christians forget that no one comes to Christ without the active intervention of the Holy Spirit to respond the good news about God the Father and Son (1 Corinthians 12:3). Moreover, it is the Triune God who sanctifies and perseveres believers to the end.
In chapter two, readers are reminded that the Trinity is a mystery like many of the truths of Christianity. God's Triune nature is beyond the comprehension limits of created and finite human beings and has puzzled Christians from the beginning. But the entire Bible bears witness to God's Triune nature.
Chapter three encourages Christians to employ Trinitarian thinking in practical day-to-day spirituality. The saints are loved and cared for by all three persons of the Trinity and all three can be prayed to and worshiped daily.
The fourth chapter rightly exalts the Triune God as the source of Christian joy, worship, celebration, and mission. The Christian life is one of joyous gratitude for the work of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
If there is going to be another Great Awakening in America it will only happen through a Christianity united in mission around the work of the Triune God. Currently there is no place for Bible-believing, gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, mission-driven churches to partner locally or nationally for the movement of the Kingdom.
Gospel-focused American Christianity remains divided: The Neo-Calvinist and Reformed churches rally around groups like The Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel, and Acts 29; gospel-centered Lutherans mostly remain among themselves in denominations like the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod; traditional Wesleyans remain clustered in denominations like The Wesleyan Church and the Church of God (Holiness); Pentecostals flourish in denominations like the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ; and Southern and National Baptist conventions are worlds unto themselves. And the list goes on. The church in America needs something that puts Jesus' prayer for unity in John 17 on display before the nations for the sake of Kingdom mission.
Christians of all stripes would do well to rally around the Trinity because it encourages each communion to bring forth its strengths, and challenges each tradition to be humble about the mysteries of faith that divide us yet do not constrain the greatest commandment of all Christians to love God and to love their neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40). Moreover, a Trinitarian center would be multi-ethnic, economically diverse, geographically dispersed, and truly represent the possibilities of Revelation 7:9.
Evangelism, social justice, apologetics, charity, and the like are held in good tension when centered on the Trinity. The Trinity keeps us from extremes. The possibilities are endless. Ultimately, there would be nothing more honoring to the Triune God than to have the people of God in an alliance around all three Persons. The Ryken-LeFrebvre book is good place for this alliance to begin.
Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.