A trinitarian view of family relations

I am doing research for my presentations at the upcoming 2009 WCG regional conferences (click here for a list of dates and locations).

My presentations will focus on family relations in light of the inclusion of all humanity in the life of the Father, Son and Spirit. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this topic.

My research took me to the Per Crucem ad Lucem blog, which references the work of Gary Deddo (click here to view a WCG interview with Deddo). A recent blog post summarized Deddo's book, “Karl Barth’s Theology of Relations.” Deddo presents Barth's understanding of our humanity (a trinitarian anthropology) and then examines the implications of that anthropology for family relations. 

Below is an edited version of this blog post.  I hope you, as have I, will find it helpful in thinking prayerfully about our participation in the Triune life and love in the context of our homes and churches.


Humanity is with God

1. The "being" of all humans is with God. We exist from God and do not exist without God, yet we are not to be confused with God. We are united with Jesus but not identical with him.

2. We are differentiated from, yet in communion with God. Through the incarnation, we participate in the trinitarian communion—this is the essence of what it means to be human. We are beings-in-relationship.

3. Our being-in-relationship is the ordered correspondence of humanity with God - we are the image of and thus the witness to God. Jesus corresponds in his being to God in that he is God’s presence and thus relationship with humanity. To be truly human is to act in a way which corresponds to who we are graciously made to be - daughters and sons of the Father of Jesus.

Humanity is for God

4. Our being-in-relationship with God is covenantal—it is being for God. The life of Jesus is a life of thanksgiving, obedience, invocation and freedom for God. The life of Jesus is true human personhood, and revelatory - unveiling for us that God is personal, and that humankind is established in Jesus and corresponds to Jesus who is the imago Dei.

5. Our being in relationship to God is dynamic—becoming in relation to God. We are becoming what humanity is graciously determined to be – for God. Humanity’s covenantal relationship with God is not intrinsic to human personhood  but is the gift of divine grace enfleshed in Jesus, in whom humanity comes to existence and now exists in relation to God with a future in relation to God.

6. Our being-in-relationship for God is that of perpetual giving. Jesus - the Man for God - is God’s own self-giving and out-going to humankind in order that humankind might be included in, and mirror, the inner Triune relations. The relations of God and humanity as revealed in Jesus are not external but internal, in which each participates in the life of the other. God’s action in Christ takes place so that humankind might participate in the Triune life - which is life itself. Humanity is not alien to God’s being, but of its essence.


1. The God whom we worship in Jesus Christ is the Triune God who exists in loving covenantal communion and who has created, reconciled and redeemed us for participation in that very communion of Father and Son in the Spirit. The parent-child relationship is one unique context in which this communion may be communicated and reflected. But families find their true place not in conformity to society in general, but in communion within the Church, a family of families.

2. As human beings we have our personhood only as a gift of being in covenantal communion with God which calls for our personal participation. This life of fellowship is to be manifested in lives of worship as the Church of Jesus Christ. It is in this context that each one of us, no matter what our family experience, hears and is reminded of our true identity as children of God and finds the norm for being parents and children in right relationship.

3. The Church is a covenant community and as such can be understood as the household of God with God as our Father and Jesus as our Brother. It is the original ‘Family’ by which all other families are to order themselves in correspondence and witness to it. This is the true source for the renewal and healing of broken family relationships.

4. Being parents is the divine gift of personal and covenantal participation in that ontological relationship of parent and child. Parents are those who in faith by grace beget and parent their children in terms of both promise and fulfillment. This constitutes a witness to, a correspondence to, an image of, God’s creation of us in promise with a view to our fulfillment. God does this by bringing us up by the Spirit to maturity according to the image of Jesus Christ and through His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, intercession and coming again.

5. Parents are those who order their domestic relations after the pattern of being members of the household of God, the Body of Christ, who acknowledge one Father and one Brother over them all. They see themselves as elder and younger brothers and sisters and all being the children of God, who belong together in a maturing communion with Him by the Spirit, thereby becoming conformed to Jesus Christ.

6. They are those who, as individuals and as domestic families, are equipped and are sent out, who equip and send out their children to serve and extend their fellowship to others that they too might be included in this one family of God by that same Spirit.