What is incarnational Trinitarian theology?

The incarnational, Trinitarian theology explored on this blog is grounded in the revelation of Jesus Christ, who, as God, is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit (the doctrine of the Trinity); and, as human, is one with all humanity (the doctrine of the Incarnation). Following are short summaries that help clarify the basic concepts of this Christ-centered theology. 

Key points
This theology can be summarized in eight key points:

1. The Triune God created all people to participate through the vicarious (representative - substitutionary) humanity of Jesus Christ in the love relationship enjoyed by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

2. The Son became human, the man Jesus Christ, to reconcile all humanity to God through his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension.

3. The crucified, resurrected and glorified Jesus is the representative and substitute for humanity at the right hand of God, and he draws all people to himself by the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. In Christ, humanity is loved and accepted by the Father.

5. Jesus Christ paid for all our sins – past, present and future – and there is no longer any debt to pay.

6. The Father has in Christ forgiven all our sins, and he eagerly desires that we turn to him.

7. We can enjoy his love only when we believe that he loves us. We can enjoy his forgiveness only when we believe he has forgiven us.

8. When we respond to the Spirit by turning to God, believing the good news and picking up our cross and following Jesus, the Spirit leads us into the transformed life of God's kingdom.

Short summary (from https://www.gci.org/aboutus/theology)
We believe that theology should be rooted in the Bible, especially the New Testament. We see a reliable theology articulated by Irenaeus, Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzus, and more recently, Karl Barth, Thomas F. Torrance, and many others. Our teachings include:

  • The Father, Son, and Spirit are one God, united in love for one another.
  • Jesus Christ, as the Word made flesh, is fully God and fully human.
  • Jesus accurately reveals the goodness and love of God, and reveals humanity as God intended us to be.
  • As our Creator, Jesus represented all humanity, and all people benefit from his vicarious humanity: his life, death, resurrection and ascension.
  • Jesus Christ atoned for all sin and suffered its full consequences, and as a result,
  • God has in Christ reconciled all humanity to himself (Colossians 1.20).However, uni­versal atonement should not be equated with universal salvation.
  • The judgment of God against evil has been executed in Jesus Christ so that all might repent and receive forgiveness and share in Christ’s resurrected, eternal life.
  • People are exhorted to respond to this reconciliation and participate in the life for which we were all created.
  • Jesus, as the nexus of divinity and humanity, has enabled humanity to participate in the life and love of the Trinity, which was God’s intent from before the beginning of time.

Biblical basis
It is our view that incarnational, Trinitarian theology forms the framework of an accurate understanding of the Bible. Note the following key points from Scripture that shape this theology:

God, who is love, loved the whole world (John 3:16) by sending his Son into the world not to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:17). Jesus Christ is "the atoning sacrifice...for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).  In Christ, God reconciled all things to himself - extending to all humanity his forgiveness and love (Colossians 1:20). Indeed, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s patience toward sinners is unlimited (1 Timothy 1:15-16). He “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus, who has authority over everything (Ephesians 1:10), draws all people to himself (John 12:32), wanting everyone to come to faith (2 Peter 3:9).

God made humans in his own image; they became sinners, alienated from him, and he, loving them intensely even in their sins (Romans 5:6-8), has forgiven and redeemed them through his Son. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” Jesus said (John 14:9). “For God,” Paul wrote, “was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

Narrative summaries
Incarnational, Trinitarian theology is perhaps best summarized in narrative form. Here is an example:

God, who loves the world, beckons every person to come to Christ and take part in the joy of life in the household of God. There is no person whom God does not want, whom God does not include, whom God does not love. In Christ, we are all freed from the chains of sin to come to the Father whose arms are open wide to receive us, if only we will. 

Christ has drawn all humans into himself, and in him they can share in his relationship with the Father as the Father’s beloved Son. In Christ, we can know and experience the Father for who he really is as our Creator, Deliverer, Redeemer, Father and Friend.

This good news (gospel) is the best and only hope for humanity. Human beings can never become righteous on their own. But God can, in Jesus Christ, forgive us, heal our minds, and make us righteous. In joyful response, we share this gospel with others as the Spirit gives us opportunity, inviting them to turn to Christ in faith so they can know him for who he really is and know themselves for who they really are in him.

Here is another example:

Christians are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Together, the Father, Son and Spirit are called the Trinity, and the Trinity occupies center stage in all authentic Christian churches and organizations.

The doctrine of the Trinity is far more than just a creed to be recited or words printed on a statement of faith.

The central biblical truth that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit actually shapes our faith and our lives as Christians. The wonderful and beautiful fellowship shared by the Father, Son, and Spirit is the very fellowship of love into which our Savior Jesus places us through his life, death, resurrection and ascension as the Son of God in flesh.

From before all time, the Triune God determined to bring humanity into the indescribable life, fellowship and joy that Father, Son and Holy Spirit share together as the one true God. In Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate, we have been made right with the Father, and in Jesus we are included in the fellowship and joy of the shared eternal life of the Trinity.

Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension are living proof of the total and unwavering devotion of the Father to his loving purpose to include humanity in the joy and fellowship of the life of the Trinity. Jesus is the proof that the Father will never abandon us. In Jesus, the Father has adopted us and made us his beloved children, and he will never forsake his plans for us.

When we trust Jesus to be our all in all, it is not an empty trust. He is our all in all. In him, our sins are forgiven, our hearts are made new, and we are included in the life he shares with the Father and the Spirit. He is our brother, and in him we become the beloved children of God by grace.

God’s eternal and almighty word of love and inclusion for you will never be silenced. You belong to him, and nothing in heaven or Earth can ever change that.

Additional information
To learn more about GCI's incarnational, Trinitarian theological perspective, check out the following articles (and see the list of books, websites, blogs and articles at right):

The Shack Revisited 
Here is an excerpt from The Shack Revisited, a book by Baxter Kruger, which unpacks the incarnational Trinitarian theology that under-girds Paul Young's book The Shack:
From all eternity, God is not alone and solitary, but lives as Father, Son and Spirit in a rich and glorious and abounding fellowship of utter oneness. There is no emptiness in this circle, no depression or fear or insecurity. The trinitarian life is a great dance of unchained communion and intimacy, fired by passionate, self-giving and other-centered love, and mutual delight. This life is good.  It is right, unique, full of music and joy, blessedness and peace. Such love, giving rise to such togetherness and fellowship and oneness, is the womb of the universe and of humanity within it. 
The stunning truth is that this Triune God, in amazing and lavish love, determined to open the circle and share the trinitarian life with others. This is the one, eternal and abiding reason for the creation of the world and of human life. There is no other God, no other will of God, no second plan, no hidden agenda for human beings.  Before the creation of the world, the Father, Son and Spirit set their love upon us and planned to bring us to share and know and experience the trinitarian life itself. Unto this end the cosmos was called into being, and the human race was fashioned, and Adam and Eve were given a place in the coming of Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son himself, in and through whom the dream of our adoption would be accomplished. 
Before creation, it was decided that the Son would cross every chasm between the Triune God and humanity and establish a real and abiding relationship with us—union.  Jesus was predestined to be the mediator, the one in and through whom the very life of the Triune God would enter human existence, and human existence would be lifted up to share in the trinitarian life. 
When Adam and Eve rebelled, ushering in chaos and misery into God’s creation, the Father, Son and Spirit never abandoned their dream, but wonderfully incorporated darkness and sin into the tapestry of the coming incarnation. As the Father’s Son became human, and as he submitted himself to bear our anger, and bizarre blindness, and as he gave himself to suffer a murderous death at our hands, he established a real and abiding relationship with fallen humanity at our very worst—and he brought his Father and the Holy Spirit with him.  It was in Jesus himself, and in his death at our bitter hands, that the trinitarian life of God pitched its tent in our hell on earth, thereby uniting all that the Father, Son and Spirit share with all that we are in our brokenness, shame and sin—adoption. 
In the life and death of Jesus the Holy Spirit made his way into human pain and blindness. Inside our broken inner worlds the Spirit works to reveal Jesus in us so that we can meet Jesus himself in our own sin and shame, and begin to see what Jesus sees, and know his Father with him. The Holy Spirit takes of Jesus and discloses it to us, so that we can know and experience Jesus’ own relationship with his Father, and we can be free to live in the Father’s embrace with Jesus. As the Spirit works we are summoned to take sides with Jesus against our own darkness and prejudice, and take simple steps of trust and change. As we do Jesus’ own anointing with the Spirit—his own fellowship with his Father, his own unearthly assurance, his own freedom and joy and power in the Spirit—begin to form in us, while not diminishing but augmenting and freeing our own uniqueness as persons. The Spirit’s passion is to bring his anointing of Jesus to full and personal and abiding expression in us as unique persons, and not only in us personally, but in our relationship with the Father in Jesus, and in our relationships with one another, and indeed with all creation, until the whole cosmos is a living sacrament of the great dance of the Triune God.

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