The Trinity is one of the unifying doctrines between the various branches of the Christian faith. We may disagree on minor points of theology, but for the most part the Christian God has been proclaimed by Christian people as one God revealed in three persons—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There are a few viable denominations that reject the Trinity such as the United Pentecostal Church (www.upci.org). The UPC denies the doctrine of the Trinity, noting that it is “inadequate” in describing the biblical revelation of the oneness of God. I do find it interesting that while they deny the triune nature of God, they do accept the divinity of the Holy Spirit. It seems to be more inadequate to explain the divinity of the Holy Spirit from their idea of the oneness of God. How can the Holy Spirit be God and Jesus be God and yet Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. There either has to be two gods here or one God in multiple persons. Nevertheless, here are at least eight reasons why I am a Trinitarian Christian:
1. God is triune.
2. The Bible reveals God as three in one.
3. Historical, orthodox Christian faith confesses a triune God.
4. The Trinity is the grammar of the Christian faith.
5. The Triune nature of God underscores the value of relationships.
6. The love expressed in the Trinity draws me into a community.
7. The mystery revealed in the non-rational nature of the Trinity demands my worship.
8. The three most influential Christian traditions in my life correspond to the persons of the Trinity.
Let me elaborate on the last reason. When people ask me if I am a “charismatic” Christian, I always hesitate. I do not know how to answer that question. If by “charismatic” they mean that I embrace the present-day work of the Spirit including the miraculous gifts recorded in I Corinthians 12, then I would say “yes”. But if by “charismatic” they mean that I embrace some kind of TBN-spirituality of biblically-sounding rhetoric, an anti-intellectual faith, emotionally demonstrative expressions of worship with crying, laughing and falling down on the floor, then no, I guess I am not a “charismatic” in those terms.
I much prefer to describe myself as a Trinitarian Christian, because the image of the Trinity has become a lens by which I see God, myself, the Church, worship, ministry….life. And as I look at my growth as a Christian over these last sixteen years, I can see that I have been influenced steadily by three different, but inter-related Christian traditions. I can look back and see times in my life when one of these streams has been more predominate than the others, but I can certainly see the influence of each three. What is interesting to me is that each tradition seems to correspond somewhat to the trinity. I would title the three streams as reformed, evangelical and charismatic. Let me explain…
reformed: This stream would most correlate with God the Father. This tradition emphasizes the sovereignty and providential work of God in ruling and reigning over his creation. The chief influencers for me have been John Piper and Mark Driscoll.
evangelical: This stream would most correlate with God the Son. This tradition emphasizes the authority of Bible, the centrality of Jesus, the work of salvation and the necessity of evangelism and missions. The chief influencers for me have been Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley.
charismatic: This stream would most correlate with God the Holy Spirit. This tradition emphasizes the gifts of the Holy Spirit, a whole-person spirituality and the necessity of experience in the Christian life. The chief influences for me have been Oral Roberts and Jack Hayford.
I have been influenced my many other streams within the Christian community, but these are the groups that have played the most significant influence on my faith and theology. Here is a wonderful statement from Gregory of Nazianzus (330-394 AD):
“No sooner do I conceive of the one than I am illuminated by the splendor of the three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carrried back to the one. When I think of any one of the three I think of him as the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that one so as to attribute a greater greatness to the rest. When I contemplate the three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light.” Gregory of Nazianzus Orations (40.41)