I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Practical Doctrine of the Trinity

Kevin DeYoung’s The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism is a wonderfully pastoral yet theologically rigorous exposition and application of the Heidelberg Catechism for the church in the 21st century.  Perhaps it is because we are of the same cohort, but I really enjoy Kevin’s subtle wit and humor, and his willingness to say (or write) what we believe to be true but didn’t think anyone else noticed it.  I’ll be honest; I was not expecting to find an application of doctrine of the Trinity to the perennial problem of the one-and-the-many or unity-diversity as I worked through this book.  With great clarity Kevin makes just such an application and shows its relevance to our contemporary culture.    

The Trinity matters for evangelism and cultural engagement.  I’ve heard it said that the two main rivals to a Christian worldview at present are Islam and postmodernism.  Islam emphasizes unity—unity of language, culture, and expression—without allowing much variance for diversity.  Postmodernism, on the other hand, emphasizes diversity—diversity of opinion, beliefs, and background—without attempting to see things in any kind of meta-unity.  Christianity, with its understanding of God as three in one, allows for diversity and unity.  If God exists in three distinct persons who all share the same essence, then it is possible to hope that God’s creation may exhibit stunning variety and individuality while still holding together in a genuine oneness (p. 52).

In this, Kevin is faithful to his Dutch Reformed heritage and the apologetic that flowed from it, not least in Cornelius Van Til’s thought.  In Common Grace & the Gospel Van Til stressed the importance of this application of the doctrine of the Trinity for apologetics. 

The God that the philosophers of the ages have been looking for, a God in whom unity and diversity are equally ultimate, the “Unknown God,” is known to us by grace (p. 9).

In the ontological trinity there is complete harmony between an equally ultimate one and many.  The persons of the trinity are mutually exhaustive of one another and of God’s nature.  It is the absolute equality in point of ultimacy that requires all the emphasis we can give it.  Involved in this absolute equality is complete interdependence; God is our concrete universal (p. 8).

Again, in The Defense of the Faith Van Til says,

Of the whole matter we may say that the unity and the diversity in God are equally basic and mutually dependent upon one another.  The importance of this doctrine for apologetics may be seen from the fact that the whole problem of philosophy may be summed up in the question of the relation of unity to diversity; the so-called problem of the one and the many receives a definite answer from the doctrine of the simplicity of God (p. 10).   

So, thanks to Pastor DeYoung for showing us a very relevant application of this most holy doctrine of ours!

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