"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Why Bother with Trinitarianism?

The most often heard denigration of the doctrine of the Trinity (and really for all Theology) is that it may be true, but it doesn’t matter. There’s no application in our daily lives.

There are actually three problems with this:

1) It is false, the doctrine of the Trinity does have application
2) A concern for application is good, but not when everything has to benefit me in areas separate from Who God is, then the problem in the question is not the “problem” but the questioner.
3) It is telling of our lack of concern for God, who is supposed to be the object of our desires. If we truly do not care Who God is, it means our love for God is lacking or absent.

Though I do believe the doctrine of the Trinity has application for our daily lives, I will leave those concerns for last; because of first priority should be the third point: our need to worship a God we know. Imagine telling your wife how thankful you are to her for giving birth to you. The idea is absurd. You should not thank your wife for the gift of your mother! Yet, in worship and prayer we often do this very thing thanking the Father for dying for us, or the Son for converting us.


The question has arisen, “Who should we worship in the Trinity?” Should our praise be centered on the Father as Jesus told the woman at the well that the Father is seeking worshippers? (John 4:23) While the Father is often the object of our worship, both tradition and Scripture reveal that the other members of the Godhead also are to be worshipped. The Nicene Creed tells us the “Holy Spirit…with the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.” And in the book of Revelation 22:3, of Jesus it is said: “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship Him.” Many of the hymns in [good] hymnbooks reflect this concern, with verses dedicated to the Father, then to the Son, then to the Spirit. If your hymnal does not do this, consider this one that does:



This might also be extended to our prayer life. We often pray to the Father, ending with an appeal to the Son (in Jesus name). The Father is traditionally the object of our prayers in worship, often with us thanking the Father for His only-begotten Son and for the Spirit He sent. This formula originates in the very earliest liturgies of the church:


While the Father may be object of the Lord’s Prayer, this should not restrict us to prayer only to the Father. However, we should be conscious of which Person we are praying to. Paul prays (speaks) directly to Christ in his conversion. Much of the worship of Christ in Revelation is in the form of prayer. Also, tradition has developed liturgical prayers with this very concern in mind. Puritans often had Trinitarian petitions in their prayers beginning with “O Father” or “O Son” depending on the object of that prayer or petition. For examples see: the Valley of Vision.


Scripture tells us that man is made in God’s Image. More than that, Scripture tells us that man is made up of two parts, male and female. Anyone concerned about the equality and diversity of gender should take notice here. This “Image of God” and the knowledge that God is Triune, informs our idea of the relationship between men and women. Scholar Bruce Waltke says as much about relationship in his commentary on Genesis writing, “Relationship is modeled after God who does not exist in isolation but is a trinity, surrounded by a heavenly court” When the model for marriage is given in Genesis 2:24, the man and woman are said to come together and become “one” or “echad.” This is the same word used in Deuteronomy 6:4 when God tells us He is “one.” This truth stands beside the truth of God’s diversity in the Persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The fact is that the Son has equal worth as the Father, even though the roles may differ. As we consider the difference of roles between men and women, the fact that the two (men and women) are one mankind, tells us that while we may differentiate the roles, if we denigrate the worth of women, a similar action to the denigration of Christ is occurring.

There are more implications for the doctrine of the Trinity, but for our purposes, and my time, I can only leave you with the exhortation to give closer thought and study to the doctrine of the Trinity. It has implication for our lives, but more importantly, it is the nature of the object that should be our greatest desire, because the Triune God is the highest good, our highest good and our greatest joy is found in Him.


Aaron said...

Wonderful! Agreed and much of your case is made well in the before mentioned book by Bruce Ware. I struggle with the whole who to pray to thing. I remember no examples of prayers to anyone but the Father. (Certainly Paul spoke to Christ but Christ was right there blinding him. Your other example seems to be adding some special circumstances as well.) Ware also drives this home as his view is the scriptural example is to pray to the Father in the name of the Son in the power of the Spirit. This is the Biblical model of prayer and how the Trinity is engaged in it. However I am also not aware of any place in the Bible where it says you better not pray to the Spirit or the Son or else… My own pastor gave me different counsel then what Ware gives. So I sometimes do feel in Christian Freedom that I may address Christ or the Spirit. But I always want to remember that Christ made it possible for me to come to my Father directly in prayer and regularly have fellowship with Him and engage the Trinity in the Biblical model of prayer. I do not want to fall into the trap of thinking that my Father is unapproachable and just pray to sweet baby Jesus. Ha! So I seem to fall mostly into that model I was taught growing up. Pray to the Father, in the name of the Son and later in life adding in the power of the Spirit. This also reminded me that I was looking for my Owen book tonight and could not find it. Communion with God, how to fellowship with each member of the Trinity! A very tender book from one of those stern Puritan types.

Jared Nelson said...

It is true that there is no verse that says "pray to Christ." But I see a close connection between prayer and worship. If worship is addressed to each member, then I think prayer should be as well, as our worship should be prayer. We should worship Christ, so why not pray to Him? Many of our hymns/songs in fact address Christ (You are my King, you died and rose again...). I think this is appropriate too, as the last words addressed to God in Scripture are addressed to Christ in prayer in Revelation: "Come Lord Jesus. Amen."

Andrew said...

This is great stuff, it was an unfortunate side effect of the reformation, that so many factions and some denominations rejected this biblical and historical doctrine.

Aaron said...

That is one of my favorite verses and I often pray it out. Sometimes out loud depending on my day. Did I mention I pray to Jesus? I think I was just trying to weigh out (poorly) some issues that I have had other godly men bring up, and the example of prayer in the other 99.9% of the Bible where prayers go up to the Father. That head of the Trinity that Bono and according to Owen so many other Christians impoverish themselves by not knowing what to do with. That member of the Trinity who put the plan of redemption into motion. Praise be to the Father as well. It appears I am just more fuzzy on some of these things and happy to be so. Reminds me of an interesting conversation I had with a lady at work who said she never disagrees with herself and thought I was weird for saying I often disagree with myself. I think I realized why we have such a hard time relating to each other. I dislike bravado and being dismissive, she dislikes indecision (and rushes to judgment in my opinion). Again those are two valid positions to walk the “royal road” on. Anyway I ment to also validate what you were saying.


Jared Nelson said...

I like to explore the issues too. I put up a modified version of this elsewhere to ask the question whether we can pray to individual members of the trinity on another site and I think the "to the Father" argument has some validity in certain contexts: