More Thoughts on the Trinity

I don’t have much time to blog these days, but before my theology class moves into another week and on to new topics, I don’t want to leave the topic of the trinity without at least one more quote from Reeves. (I’ve finally discovered how to copy and paste from the Kindle app for Windows 8. I wouldn’t have known to go to my Kindle cloud to find the parts I’ve highlighted without having done a Google search.)

Reeves (and apparently Tim Keller follows this same train of thought) has the following to say about the trinity and love:


“My Chosen One in Whom I Delight”

Now, God could not be love if there were nobody to love. He could not be a Father without a child. And yet it is not as if God created so that he could love someone. He is love, and does not need to create in order to be who he is. If he did, what a needy, lonely thing he would be! “Poor old God,” we’d say. If he created us in order to be who he is, we would be giving him life.

No, “Father,” says Jesus the Son in John 17:24, “you loved me before the creation of the world.” The eternal Son, who according to Colossians 1 is “before all things” (Col 1:17), the one through whom “all things were created” (Col 1:16), the one Hebrews 1 calls “Lord” and “God,” who “laid the foundations of the earth” (Heb 1:10)—it is he who is loved by the Father before the creation of the world. The Father, then, is the Father of the eternal Son, and he finds his very identity, his Fatherhood, in loving and giving out his life and being to the Son.

That is why it is important to note that the Son is the eternal Son. There was never a time when he didn’t exist. If there were, then God is a completely different sort of being. If there were once a time when the Son didn’t exist, then there was once a time when the Father was not yet a Father. And if that is the case, then once upon a time God was not loving since all by himself he would have had nobody to love.

(kindle location 329)

The context of the discussion above is that other monotheistic religions, like Islam and Judaism, do not believe in a triune God. Their god is smaller. Their god is only a single entity. Islam states that “Allah” has many names/descriptions. One of these is that he is a loving god. Reeves makes the point that before any of these gods created anything (because these religions all state that their god is the creator of everything that exists), these gods were alone. There was nothing and no one else in existence. We believe this about the God of the Bible as well.

However, in the case of “Allah” or the god of Judaism, these non-triune gods had nothing to love but themselves. If these gods are indeed love or loving, then they must exercise love. But how or whom could they love when there was no one else to love but themselves? Is this the ultimate example and definition of love? A god who loves himself? Is this perfect love? Perhaps these religions would state “yes, that is perfect love.” To us this seems far less than perfect love to merely love oneself. Should the followers of these gods emulate their gods perfectly, I think we would call these followers the ultimate example of selfishness, not love.

Think about what you may know or have observed of Islam or Judaism. They tend to be cold, impersonal religions that are based strictly on rules and particular pieces of information. The connection to their god is not warm, loving, and relational. Their idea of eternity may likewise not involve such relations as well, especially Islam, which mere promised “paradise” with rewards, but Allah doesn’t appear to show up and be an intimate part of the deal. He has no reason to. He doesn’t love his creatures, he merely rewards those who meet whatever standards and requirements that he has laid out. There is no sense of “knowing” him.

One of the beauties of the trinity is that God can love Himself. The Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Father. The Father and Son love the Spirit, and the Spirit loves the Father and Son. The three persons know each other infinitely and intimately. This is a perfect love, and a love that we as God’s followers can emulate. We can know and love the Father and the Son and the Spirit. God exudes love from His Being, and we, as people filled with the Spirit of God, can likewise be people who love God and other people with all of our being as well. (1 John has much to say about this topic of God’s love, esp. chapter 4:7-5:5; continuing through 5:13, John connects love, faith/belief, and eternal life with knowing God as the trinity and remaining in Him.)

There are many potential ramifications to the hypothetical existence of other single gods concerning love. I think we would conclude that whatever love is from such self-centered gods, we would have no part in their love. We would find no enjoyment in or from their love. These gods are incapable of loving their creation because for those gods, perfect love is inward rather than outward. “Allah” could not be god should he love anyone aside from himself because in doing so, he would no longer be perfect as he would be loving something less than perfect (i.e. anyone other than himself). The same is true with the god of Judaism.

However, with the triune God of the Bible, He loves others and His love is perfect. Each person of the trinity loves the other persons of the trinity because He loves to love: God is love. Sharing love is the point of love. Thus, for God to love mankind does not result in an imperfection, His outward love serves to exalt the love of God even more. No other monotheistic religion can lay claim to this perfect pattern of love that our triune God demonstrates for us.

What are you thinking about these things?

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Giving Thanks

We enjoyed an American-style Thanksgiving dinner with our Camino Global teammates on Tuesday of this week, so we are missing the ritual kitchen fragrances of the tradition on Thursday, but we’re always thankful and have much to thank God for. Mostly we give thanks to God for God. He is our all in all.

As is common for the occasion, we took time and went around the table three times for each person, even the kids, to give a word of thanks to God. That was more than enough to fill our hearts, and we honestly could have skipped the meal.



I cannot imagine what it is like for the vast majority of people in this world who do not celebrate a day of thanksgiving, and even if they did, what meaning would there be in simply “giving thanks” without knowing the God to whom we all owe our gratitude? There is no day of giving thanks on the calendar in Mexico. May the people of this nation come to know the God who loves them and know the reason for giving all their thanks to Him.


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The Good Trinity and Some Good Thoughts

I am thoroughly enjoying a supplemental textbook for my Systematic Christian Theology class this week. If you want a practical and thoughtful read on the topic of the Trinity, get this book. As I continue reading through, I can’t stop myself from highlighting one excellent thought after another. The book title is Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves.

The following excerpt is from the Kindle version, location 753-810. You are missing nearly two chapters of running thought to get to this point, but hopefully you can still appreciate the following, especially in light of contemporary events in our culture and world.

“And It Was Good”

God the Father is a God who delights to have another beside him (his eternal Son). He is a God who thinks that is good. And thus he is a God who can declare his creation good. If he had been eternally alone, preoccupied only with himself, it is hard to believe he could do that. The new existence of something else beside him would surely be a nuisance, or perhaps appear to be a rival. Take, for example, something the enormously influential Muslim theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1056-1111) once wrote: “God does indeed love them [people], but in reality He loves nothing other than Himself, in the sense that He is the totality [of being], and there is nothing in being apart from Him.”[7]

Because Allah really “loves nothing other than Himself,” he does not really turn outward to express his love to others. Thus there can be no reason why anything else should exist. Really, therefore, “there is nothing in being apart from Him.” Of course, the Qur’an speaks of Allah’s love and of creation, but it is hard to see quite how those things can be. The universe, in Islamic thought, must have only a shadowy, uncertain existence.

And to look around, it certainly seems the case that absolutely singular supreme beings tend to show a marked awkwardness about the existence of creation. In such belief systems, the physical is routinely viewed negatively and with caution. And the hope such gods offer does not usually include ever getting to see, know or relate to them. They offer “paradise,” but will not really be there themselves. Why would they want to be involved with creation?

A stark example of this can be seen in a rather odd collection of second- and third-century beliefs we call Gnosticism. If you’ve read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, or seen the film, you will have come across Gnosticism. In the world of Dan Brown, orthodox Christianity is an authoritarian, chauvinist, intolerant religion: that, apparently, is what the God of Christianity is like and so that is how his servants are. But on the sidelines of history, persecuted and chased into hiding, are the Gnostics; and in Dan Brown’s mind, the Gnostics were the open-minded, tolerant, protofeminist goodies.

Well, now. Let us see. In Gnosticism, everything started with The One.[8] That is, there was a spiritual realm and nothing more. Everything was fine and divine. Imagine the room you are in now being that realm: in the room there is peace and a really good book you’d recommend to your friends. Outside the room, absolutely nothing exists. Then, somehow, something goes wrong. A disturbance in the room. The dog starts throwing up on the carpet, say. Of course, you want to keep reading the really good book, so the disturbance and its mess must be thrown out. But now, as soon as the disturbance is thrown out of the room, something troublesome and obnoxious exists outside the room.

And that is Gnosticism’s account of creation: once there was only the spiritual realm; something went wrong; the problem got thrown outside; now something exists outside the spiritual realm and that became the physical universe. Where Genesis speaks of a good creation and then a fall into evil, Gnosticism imagined first a fall into evil, and creation as the result. For the Gnostics, the One was good; the existence of something else beside it is bad. Thus they could speak of that something else (the universe, our bodies and everything physical) being like noxious vomit spewed forth from the One. The good news, they held, was that, like a dog, the One would return to its vomit and suck it all back up. Then everything physical would be consumed and ingested by the spiritual, all would happily be just One again, and the universe would be but an embarrassing memory in the mind of the One.

Absolutely singular supreme beings do not like creation.


If that was how the Gnostics rearranged Genesis 1, inserting a “not” into every “God saw it was good, just imagine how they read Genesis 2 and the story of the creation of Eve. For them, the chapter starts quite positively: the man is alone. There is only one. That must be good. But then, horribly, and just as the physical realm was excreted from the spiritual, Eve comes out of Adam. Now there are two. And just as the existence of two realms (spiritual and physical) is bad, so the existence of two sexes is bad. More specifically, the existence of women is bad. Thus the final verse in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas reads: “Simon Peter said to them, ‘Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, ‘I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.’”a The Lord God taking Eve from Adam’s side

That verse does not come across as jarring or awkward at the end of the Gospel of Thomas; it is the natural child of Gnostic thought. The existence of two realms, two sexes, of the physical and the feminine, is a tragedy. But such must be the case with a lonely and solitary supreme being. Intolerant of the existence of anything else, it is only natural that he should prefer to hide both the physical and the feminine away, or use them if he can only for his own self-gratification. And so for women at least, Gnostic salvation would mean gender-bending. Dan Brown’s insinuation that the Gnostics were the tolerant protofeminists sounds very hollow indeed.

And those chauvinist Christians? Believing that God is not lonely, it made perfect sense to say that it is not good to have men alone. As God is not alone, so a human in his image should not be alone. They therefore upheld creation and the physical, femininity, relationship and marriage all as being intrinsically good, created reflections of a God who is not lonely.

Without the Trinity, it is hard to see how such things could be ultimately affirmed. (Of course, one could simply argue that men and women are equal because they are both human, but that is an entirely loveless affirmation, and gives no grounds for seeing those things as absolute goods to be reveled in.) The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that as the head of Christ is God, so the head of a wife is her husband. But if the Son is less God than his Father, is a wife less human than her husband? Without belief in God the Father and the Son, one in the Spirit, why should a husband not treat his wife as a lesser being? Yet if a husband’s headship of his wife is somehow akin to the Father’s headship of the Son, then what a loving relationship must ensue! The Father’s very identity is about giving life, love and being to his Son, doing all out of love for him.

Of course, that is not to say that Christians have always got things right here or lived out these beliefs, but it does start to kick back strongly against the idea that Christianity is inherently chauvinist. Belief in the Trinity works precisely against chauvinism and for delight in harmonious relationships.

And that told historically as Christianity first spread through the ancient Greco-Roman world. Studies have shown that in that world it was quite extraordinarily rare for even large families ever to have more than one daughter. How is that possible across countries and centuries? Quite simply because abortion and female infanticide were widely practiced so as to relieve families of the burden of a gender considered largely superfluous. No surprise, then, that Christianity should have been so especially attractive to women, who made up so many of the early converts: Christianity decried those life-threatening ancient abortion procedures; it refused to ignore the infidelity of husbands as paganism did; in Christianity, widows would be and were supported by the church; they were even welcomed as “fellow-workers” in the gospel (Rom 16:3). In Christianity, women were valued.

aThe Gospel of Thomas, Logion 114, in J. M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), p. 139; see also Logion 22.

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Out of the Stone Age

While I am a fan of some types of technology, I’ve not been bashful about publicizing my dislike for cell phones. Maybe it’s because my first experiences with these devices back around the turn of the 90’s…that’s the 1990s kids, not 1890s…they were large, heavy, balky, and reminded me of those radios (walkie-talkies) often seen in old WW II movies. Remember seeing those? They were the size of 8-track players. (If you don’t know what those were, just think the size of a fax machine. Ok, that might not have helped. Think iPhone…times 75.)

The point is that I don’t like cell phones and especially smart phones. It’s not that I’m dumb or anything, but let’s just not go there. Actually, the real point is that I have a smart phone, and recently I came out of the stone age and did something with my smart phone that I had never done before. I don’t even want to admit that I did this because I’m not fan of these.

Yes. I did it. I took a selfie.

Don’t judge me.

At least, I took a selfie with a couple of our MKs that just the day before I had harassed on Facebook for posting a selfie of themselves together. I figured I might as well come out of the stone age and join them.


I was quite proud of myself. One for actually taking my first selfie. Two because I figured out how to do it (it only took a minute). Three because I figured out I could just say “cheese,” and it would take the picture automatically (THEY didn’t even know how to do that!).

Yes, I finally came out of the stone age. Better late than never, right?!

I was proud of myself. Until…


I saw this.





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I Study Greek to Hebrew

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Speaking of Hymns

Recently, I came across this YouTube video of Fernando Ortega singing and mostly speaking at the Desiring God 2012 National Conference. I have never heard him speak before, and apparently he doesn’t very often in this sort of venue.

His life-stories and hymns shared are really encouraging and interesting. If you have 47 minutes, to watch or just listen while doing something else at your screen, you might find it a little gem worth the investment of your time. I’ve listened to it twice in its entirety and a couple portions more than that. Hope you can take time to enjoy this.

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Today marks the midway point of my first Greek class. It runs 14 weeks with this week being a one week break. Most 3 credit hour courses are only 7 weeks in duration, but the language courses are extended due to the quantity of material and the special challenges associated with language learning.

From here on out, it only gets more difficult. Not only will the material get more complex, but I need to add another class to my schedule. In order to maintain the Timothy Scholarship, I have to complete 15 credit hours minimally per school year. Last year, that meant taking 4 classes during the fall and spring semesters and then one more in the summer session that went through June while we were busy traveling for our home assignment. That was a tremendous challenge.

With Cameron hoping to attend college next summer and needing time to get acclimated to life in the USA and all that this means for him, we probably will need to go up once again for the summer. We still have over half of our supporting churches to visit, so I also expect more road trips to fit in more home assignment responsibilities.

To avoid taking a class while traveling, I will need to take Greek II over 14 weeks starting in January along with 2 more classes of 7 week lengths. I do not know how I will manage it all, but I will have to figure it out. I will appreciate not needing to take a class while traveling, so I can focus on our communication and enjoy the fellowship without the preoccupation of reading and writing papers, etc.

I need to check with Bethel Baptist as to the balance in my scholarship matching fund. I do believe I will need a few hundred dollars by December in order to meet that need. I share this in genuine humility, but so far I have earned A’s in all 5 classes (including a 100% for my summer class!), and I have reached week 7 with over a 99% in Greek. God has certainly blessed my studies! Knowing others have invested financially in my efforts has been a real motivation to do my best.

I appreciate your prayers and contributions as I continue studying and deepening my understanding of God’s word and strengthen my abilities to minister to others and to serve Him in doing so.  Without a doubt these studies have helped me. They are about to become much more difficult, and it may not be possible to earn the highest marks possible, but my focus is on the learning. The grades are nice, but they do not mean anything if I am not learning and applying what I am learning. There is much to be done here, and so many lives that need the Lord!

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