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Showing posts from February, 2011

Life in the Trinity: Interpreting Scripture

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This post continues a series in the bookLife in the Trinity by Donald Fairbairn. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1235678.

Fairbairn advocates the Christ-centered approach to biblical interpretation utilized by many of the church fathers. That approach begins with the central message of Scripture (what the fathers called the rule of faith) and then understands a specific text in that light. In this way, one starts with the broad context (story) of all Scripture and only then focuses on the narrow particulars.

Unfortunately, we often do the reverse. We read a particular passage, then look only to its immediate (narrow) context to determine its meaning. When we do so, the broad context and thus the true meaning is often distorted or entirely missed.

Fairbairn elaborates, pointing to the church father's understanding of the rule of faith: We [tend to] start with ourselves and ask how God relates to us. The church fathers started with God, and especially with …

The people of God, the worshipping community, as ‘new creation in Christ’

While we are each created as unique individuals, we are also created for relationship with the Triune God, and with all creation—especially with others in the worshipping community. In his essay Baptism and the Christian Community, the late British theologian Colin Guntondescribed the worshipping community—the church—as being new creation in Christ by the Spirit. Gunton points to the relational aspect of the ever-changing church community, and says that to baptize a person is to bring that unique person into
"….the sphere of the Spirit’s working, into the place where his or her gift may be exercised for the glory of God. The Spirit is the Spirit who creates the community of the Last Days, that worshiping body that is brought into the presence of the Father in the Son and by the Spirit."

"Baptism, therefore, brings persons into relation with that community, so that they are now by means of a sacramental action brought within a new pattern of relationships….that are what…

Life in the Trinity: What does that look like?

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This post continues a series in the bookLife in the Trinity by Donald Fairbairn. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1245678.

Fairbairn refers to the doctrine of the Trinity as "the gateway to understanding Christian life" (p50). Last time, we noted Fairbairn's understanding of the Trinity: God, who is three (tri-personal), is one in substance ("God-ness") and fellowship (triune communion) (p55). But what does this mean for our lives?

According to Fairbairn, just this: though we do not and cannot share in God's substance, God created us to share in his triune fellowship (p56). Indeed, this sharing in the love and life of the Trinity, which the Patristic fathers referred to as theosis, is the essence of human life.He comments:
...We are meant to remain creatures and thus remain lower than God but at the same time to share in the fellowship and love that have existed from all eternity between the persons of the Trinity.... This God who s…

Life in the Trinity: God's threeness and oneness

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This post continues a series in the bookLife in the Trinity by Donald Fairbairn. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1345678.

In chapter 3, Fairbairn addresses differing views of the Trinity. He notes that, "the Western church has emphasized the oneness of God..."  whereas, "the Eastern church has stressed God's threeness." Why the difference?  Because, "whether one starts with the one or the three depends on how one interprets the flow of biblical revelation about the Trinity" (p39).

The Old Testament emphasizes God's oneness (e.g. Isaiah 43-45 and Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Then the New Testament testifies to this one God's threeness (the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God). Both ideas are true and essential, but a problem arises when they are reduced to a mechanistic formula. Instead, the Bible speaks of God's oneness and threeness in a relational context- God is revealed as personal being who is b…

A new Hymn to the Trinity – and our place in the life of the Son

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On this blog we typically focus on the larger themes and theology of Trinitarian life and worship rather than on specific worship songs. But here’s a new hymn about that Divine and human reality.

In searching for Trinitarian worship music, Jonathan Stepp decided to write a new song – Hymn to the Trinity. Surprising perhaps, since Jonathan isn’t a song writer, but then again considering the theme of the hymn, perhaps not so surprising, since Jonathan is a church pastor in Nashville TN who for years has poured himself into preaching and writing about Trinitarian life—the good news that the Son of God lives in humanity and shares with us the relationship he has with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jonathan often refers to this as “the adopted life” – the life in which we are all participants now that the Trinity and Humanity are together in Jesus. Jonathan (along with Tim Brassell) developed The Adopted Lifewebsite and newsletter, and is a primary contributor to the Trinity and Hum…

Life in the Trinity: Our adoption

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This post begins a series in the bookLife in the Trinity, an introduction to theology with the help of the church fathers by Donald Fairbairn. For other posts in the series, click a number: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

Dr. Fairbairn presents an important and helpful overview of incarnational Trinitarian (Christ-centered) theology. A key feature is following the patristic fathers in emphasizing the Biblical doctrine of adoption. This emphasis contrasts with Western Protestant theologies that tend to follow the reformers in emphasizing justification. In this context, adoption (and its correlate, sonship) tends to be relegated to a believer's forensic (legal) standing before God.

However, in the East (and now in Fairbairn's book), adoption is placed front and center where it is viewed as fundamentally relational: "a sharing by grace in the fellowship the Son has with the Father by nature" (p. 9). The stunning truth is that the divine Son of God became human in order that, in him…

Mission or Mission?

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It seems that the Holy Spirit is transforming the church's understanding of mission. In Mission or Mission (an article on page 3 of the Sept/Dec 2003 issue of The Gospel and our Culture), Edwin Searcy (congregational minister at University Hill Congregation, United Church of Canada, Vancouver, B.C.) describes how his understanding of mission has changed:
For most of my life mission has referred to a journey with a purpose, undertaken by an individual or a group. As a teen I watched every mission to the moon with fascination. Growing up in the United Church [of Canada] I learned that the Mission and Service Fund was our calling to "live love." As a minister I worked hard with congregations to craft mission statements that gave direction to our objectives and goals. Mission had to do with us, with what we needed to do, because, as we said to ourselves, "God has no other hands but ours."But I am undergoing a conversion in my life because of a conversion in my under…