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A Trinitarian view of baptism

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In this post we'll look at how three Trinitarian theologians address the sacrament of baptism. All three understand baptism to be a proclamation that we have been saved by Jesus Christ alone and not through our own repentance and faith. All three view baptism as a participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus, in which our old selves have been crucified and renounced in Christ and we have been freed from the shackles of the past and given new being through his resurrection. For all three, baptism proclaims the good news that Jesus has made us his own, and that it is only in him that our new life of faith and obedience emerges.

Migliore on baptism In Faith Seeking Understanding, Daniel Migliore calls baptism "the sacrament of initiation into life in Christ," noting that "it marks the beginning of the journey of faith and discipleship that lasts throughout one’s life" (p. 282). He finds authorization to baptize in a couple of places in Scripture:
Jesus’ gr…

The sacraments in pastoral ministry

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Sadly, the sacraments often are overlooked in discussing the theology and practice of pastoral ministry. I seek to address that deficit in my Practice of Ministry course at Grace Communion Seminary. Here is an excerpt from one of my lectures.

In Faith Seeking Understanding, Trinitarian theologian Daniel Migliore defines the sacraments as “visible words” that as “embodiments of grace” are “enacted testimonies to the love of God in Jesus Christ.” He notes that Augustine referred to the sacraments as “visible signs of an invisible grace” and that the Westminster Shorter Catechism calls a Sacrament “a holy ordinance instituted by Christ wherein by visible signs Christ and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed and applied to believers.” Migliore adds that the sacraments are “palpable enactments of the gospel by means of which the Spirit of God confirms to us the forgiving, renewing, and promising love of God in Jesus Christ and enlivens us in faith, hope, and love" (…

Evangelism: a trinitarian approach

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Note how the apostle Paul exhorts his young protégé Timothy:
I give you this charge: preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction…. Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2Tim. 4:1-3, 5) Here Timothy, apparently serving as pastor of the church in Ephesus, is exhorted by Paul to fulfill his duties, including that of evangelism. Note Paul's similar instructions to Timothy in an earlier letter:
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. (1Tim. 4:14-15) The “gift” here seems to be Timothy’s calling to be an elder/pastor. With ordination came certain expectations, which in 2 Timothy 4 Paul exhorts Timothy to fulfill, evangelism being one of them. Though in…

Sharing ministry with Jesus (Christopraxis)

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Central to incarnational Trinitarian (Nicene) faith are the twin doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Though both involve amazing, mysterious truths, these doctrines are highly "practical" in that they address the reality of how things actually are, both with God and humanity. Theologian Ray Anderson addresses this reality in The Shape of Practical Theology, drawing on insights from Karl Barth, T.F. Torrance and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. According to Anderson,
[Bonhoeffer] laid the groundwork for a praxis-oriented theology through an ethic of discipleship and obedience, where theory emerges only through engagement with truth as an ethical demand in the form of the claim of Christ through the other person. (pp. 17-18) Anderson emphasizes how theology (theory) flows from and so is informed by practice (praxis). We see this dynamic in operation in the way Jesus ministered to his first followers. He did not disciple them with lectures on theory. Instead, he said to them: &q…

Trinitarian foundations of pastoral ministry

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In the book Pastoral Theology, Theological Foundations for Who a Pastor is and What He Does, Daniel Akin and Scott Pace assert that the fruit of our ministry as pastors will never exceed the depth of our Trinitarian theological roots. Agreeing with that assertion, this blog advocates grounding all aspects of ministry in incarnational Trinitarian faith (what Thomas F. Torrance calls Nicene faith).

Toward that end, we urge readers to ask, How does incarnational Trinitarian theology relate to the particular ministry task at hand? Answering that question is the focus of two books that I highly recommend: Reconstructing Pastoral Theology by Andrew Purves, and The Relational Pastor by Andrew Root. Both authors ground pastoral ministry in the ministry of revelation and reconciliation that Jesus Christ continues to conduct. In previous posts on this blog I've provided detailed reviews of both books: click here for Purves; click here for Root.


Purves and Root emphasize that ministry (past…

Torrance: regeneration and evangelism

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We continue unpacking the Christocentric, Trinitarian theology of Thomas F. Torrance with a post that appeared on this blog five years ago.

Given that all are included in Christ through his incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension, how are we to understand what happens when a person turns to God in faith (the moment many call "regeneration" or "being born again")? And what about evangelism---how are we to present the gospel in a way that is truly Christ-centered, including inviting a person to a response of faith?
Regeneration  For Torrance, the key to a thoroughly biblical, Christ-centered understanding of regeneration is to focus one's attention first not on one's personal (subjective) experience, but on the objective (albeit mysterious) reality of Jesus Christ as the permanent union of God and humanity in one divine-human person. This key is helpfully addressed by T.F. in his book The Mediation of Christ:
It is significant that the New Testam…

Torrance: the goal of the atonement

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This post concludes a series exploring T.F. Torrance in Plain English wherein Stephen D. Morrison presents nine key ideas in Thomas F. Torrance's Christocentric Trinitarian theology. For other posts in the series, click a number: 123456, 7, 8.

Last time we looked at Torrance's key idea of a threefold atonement. This time we'll explore his key idea that the goal of the atonement is union with Christ and participation in the Triune life of God.


For Torrance, the purpose and goal of the atonement---accomplished in and through the Son of God via his incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension---is not limited to the forgiveness of sin. Rather than a message about salvation away from something, the gospel, which proclaims the atonement, tells of salvation for the sake of union with Christ and participation in the love and life of the tri-personal God. Torrance puts it this way:
The mighty act of the incarnation... is at once the act of God's humiliation an…