This is the first post in a series based on Mark Driscoll’s Doctrine book. We will have a few different bloggers contributing, covering a chapter each on a rotating basis. Our aim is to offer personal thoughts and engage the reading community in discussion.
These points of doctrine are of central importance to the Christian faith, hence Driscoll and his co-author Gerry Breshears tackling them. It is important that, even as central as these are, that we maintain kindness and generosity towards each other, even as we potentially disagree with each other.
Being central tenets of the faith, they can elicit strong emotional responses and passionate intellectual arguments. Both of those are fine, but keep it kind ladies and gentlemen, keep it kind.
And so we come to the first chapter dealing with the Trinity.
A Relational Community of Love
The Trinity is the first community and the ideal for all communities. (p.12)
I don’t want to get ahead of things here with regard to the idea of Imago Dei, but it is unavoidable in some sense because Driscoll starts with the assertion that the reason we are all so hungry for relationship, community, knowing and being known, is the fact we are made by and living in the creation of the God who is three persons, but one God. The Father is fully God. Jesus is fully God. The Holy Spirit is fully God.
Co-equal and co-eternal, yet being distinct from each other, the mystery of the Trinity leaves me breathless. In one sense it is a doctrine that requires us to let God be God, and not try to exhaust all the mystery from His being. And yet we are also compelled to use our minds in understanding who He is, and what that means to us.
When we look at the Christian God-head, we see what we are all longing for. Though humanity is sinful, and our community is broken, we can see the perfect community in God. The acts of love, submission, humility, glorification and so on, all carried out in perfect unity, are the marks of the community life that we are hungry for.
God is not cold, uncaring or impersonal. His very nature is one of relating, loving and intimacy. This three-in-oneness is a distinct mark of Christianity, and it resonates with the human heart.
One of the things Driscoll points out in the section of the chapter that deals with the history of the Trinitarian doctrine is the need to limit ourselves to what the Bible does say. The basic creeds of the Church are so good because they are brave enough to take the formulation as far as the texts allow, and stop without caving to the need to wrap things up in a tidy fashion. To embrace the unknown aspects of God is a humble and freeing thing to do. It is not to say that we can know nothing of God, nor is it to say that what we do know is unsure, but only that we have a limit in how much we can know – some things are secret, or unfathomable for us.
This humble and wise approach to the hard work of doctrinal understanding is going to be essential in all other studies of theology, so we should keep it in mind when we are working through other chapters. Doctrine should not be ripe with speculative remarks.
If we treasure our relationship with God, we should also treasure the revelation he gives us about himself so that we can know him as best as we are able. (p.29)
Whilst we should limit the pioneering of theology, we have plenty to embrace in what God has revealed about himself. In the Scriptures we learn, through the Old and New Testaments, that the Father, Son and Spirit were all involved in creation, that they have been in existence together eternally, that the Father exults the Son as the Son glorifies the Father by the Spirit.
As brain-impacting as these things can be to work through, we should never consider them a hardship for they are God telling us precious truths about himself so that we can know him more clearly.
Questions for Consideration
Though the chapter focused on the Trinity, here are some broader questions to consider as we begin this journey through Doctrine:
1) How does the nature of God relate to the longings of man, and where do you see that at work in your life right now?
2) Are there areas of theology that you recognize are speculation and need to be held with more humility? How can we approach that way of life together?
3) How can we cultivate delight in God’s self-disclosure of who he is?