Rescue, the Trinity & Christ our Example

15 Feb

On the iPod this morning: Battle Cry by Michael Gungor.

He was the worship leader at the church Jenni and I attended in Tulsa in the late 90s. He is a phenomenal guitar player and he has developed into a great worship leader. He is currently at Resurrection Life Church in Grand Rapids, MI and travel a lot, so it seems. Battle Cry was the 2006 Aquire the Fire youth conference album. I am happy to see that God is using Michael in a variety of ways. Check him out at

Track 5 on Battle Cry is the song “Rescue.” As I was listening to it this morning, it got me thinking a bit about Jesus, his work and our response. For over two years I have been consumed with this trinitarian vision of spiritual transformation. It has become the theological backbone of my dissertation (which is nearly completed). In this trinitarian vision, spiritual transformation is viewed as the WORK OF THE SPIRIT to transform us into the IMAGE OF THE SON for the JOY OF GOD, THE FATHER.

Forgive me as I dive into a bit of the historical background of the doctrine of the Trinity.

I am reading Stan Grenz’s Rediscovering the Triune God. He does a good job of providing an overview of contemporary theologies of the Trinity. I have finished the chapter on the “Karls” (Barth and Rahner) and I am moving on to Pannenberg, Moltmann and Jenson. Both of the Karls were interested in moving away from the speculative nature of trinitarian theology. It is speculative discussions of the Trinity that causes the average church goer to cry: “BORING!” The Karls wanted to look closer at the doctrine of the trinity through God’s revelation (Barth) and God-in-salvation (Rahner), that is the centrality of the incarnation “God with us.” Rahner’s contribution known as “Rahner’s Rule” is that God as he exists in eternity is the God who reveals himself in salvation. The importance of this is that is makes the study of the trinity both biblical and practical. The unknowable, immutable eternal God (the immanent Trinity) makes himself known in his activity (the economic Trinity). This move takes discussions of the trinity to the church, to worship, to discipliship and for me, spiritual transformation.

It is upon this theological foundation that I have built my trinitarian vision of spiritual formation. God is revealing himself in his work of spiritual transformation, because it is God’s work through the Spirit to transform us into the image of God through Jesus for the pleasure of God himself. We see him in what he does.

Now back to Gungor’s song “Rescue.”

As I was listening to “Rescue,” I was reminded of an important point of clarification when I talk about Jesus our example. Jesus is our example of spiritual transformation. He is what we are being conformed into. He is the model for ethical behavior and moral character, but he can only be our example AFTER he has become our savior. The danger of emphasizing the role of Jesus as our example can lead us down the road of pelagianism, a heresy that was condemned by the Church in the fifth century and taught that you can be forgiven of your sins and justified with God by patterning your life after Christ’s moral example. If this was true, then the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (the central piece of the Christian story) is not necessary.

Jesus our example (Christus exemplar) is a part of the work of God the Son, but it is subsequent to Jesus our savior, our rescuer. We need Jesus to come and rescue us from our sin and spiritual poverty, before we can follow him and allow the Spirit to transform us into his image. Living a life patterned after Jesus’ example is simply not enough. Beyond that it will leave you frustrated and disillusioned. You cannot try out the Christian life. You have to dive in headlong and allow Jesus to rescue you through faith and repentance. Only then can he become your example.

“Rescue” has some further trinitarian imagery. As I have been meditating on the trinity, I have been thinking about how God makes himself known through salvation. He becomes “God with us” which encapsulates the wholeness of substance of the three persons, but it can also represent the distinct personhood of the Son. From here we can see God the Father as “God created us” (creation); Jesus the Son as “God with us” (incarnation); and God the Holy Spirit as “God in us” (sanctification). I heard this imagery in “Rescue.” Here are some lines from the song:

You are the source of the life
I can’t be left behind
No one else will do
I will take hold of You

… “God created us” (the Father)

I need You Jesus
To come to my rescue
Where else can I go

… “God with us” (the Son)

Capture me with grace
… “God in us” (the Spirit)

Click here for more on the song “Rescue”


Posted by on February 15, 2007 in Theology


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2 responses to “Rescue, the Trinity & Christ our Example

  1. daniel

    February 16, 2007 at 2:09 am

    I came acroos this blog this morning and had to post a quick comment. I had read that Derek has a ministry and that’s why I have written this. I am not trying to be mean or vindictive when I say this, But Jesus Christ said you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. The truth is that the Triniy is a lie. And without getting further into it here and hurting everyone’s feelings I am going to share so history. I have difinitive proof from the Word that God is and that Jesus Christ is his son, not himself in the second or third persons. In closing I will leave you with this: The Davinci Code brought something big out into the open and that was the Council of Nicea. If you do your own research about it you will find that Constantine was not the first christian as a lot have said, He had a vision of Christ on the Cross while worshipping the Sun. In order to unite people he himself postulated the Trinity of three gods in one, coincidently the same kind of Pagan religion he himself worshipped. He forced all the Bishops of the time to sign a decree to a belief in this doctrine or to suffer being burned to death. Very few held strong and were killed while the others joined in promoting this false doctrine and who can honestly say they would have stood up for the truth with the emperor of the known world threatening you with certain death. Up until this time only the rightly divided Word of God was taught which was, and I Quote, from Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    I have hundreds of versus of scripture supporting what I say is the truth and I have also been taught how to rightly divide the word of God.
    If you desire to know more about the truth of Gods Word and your not scared to get to the meat of the matter, then please visit

  2. derek vreeland

    February 16, 2007 at 3:09 am


    I would be happy to discuss the doctrine of the Trinity with you, perhaps by email? I may not have the time to send lengthy emails, but I think we could discuss some key concepts.

    In response to your post, I would certainly not concider the Trinity a lie although I would add that the word “trinity” is not found in the Bible. The key issue is this–the Bible clearly speaks of God the Father, Jesus the Son of God and the Holy Spirit. Would you agree? If so, then I believe that the Bible speaks of the divinity of each of the three. If you agree at this point, then we have to decide how these three can be divine if we believe in only one God.

    I see two choices from here. Either these are three expressions of the one God (modalism) or these three are distinct persons of the one God (trinity). I would be open to other solutions if you know of any.

    Now before we look to the Scripture for answers, I will caution you that we will not find any there. The Bible does not systematically explain either of the above positions. This is where we rely on Church history and those Christians thinkers who have gone before us.

    Concerning history, I would say that The Da Vinci Code has opened up something big, but I would say that what DVC opened was a simple formula: Bad Historical Evidence + Religious Subversion + Tom Hanks with a bad hair do = BIG BUCKS. The DVC has done a great job of reopening the conversation about the history of the Christian faith, but it has done a poor job of separating historical fact from mythology.

    Granted the conversion of Constantine has been called into question. We know that he was never baptized. But where the DVC got it’s history wrong was in the nature of the Council of Nicea in 325. Constantine did call the council together. I believe that he did have political reasons for doing so, but he did not engage in the theological dialogue of the council. He left that to the bishops. If you believe that Constantine “postulated the Trinity,” I would like to see what historical record you base that on. To my knowledge, there is no reliable historical record that says he interjected the doctrine of the Trinity into the council’s discussion.

    The Council of Nicea did not really create a doctrine as much as it clarified a distortion. It suppressed the Arian heresy that said that Jesus was a created god. The Trinity, was not discussed at Nicea and no doctrine was established. What was established was a creed. The Nicean Creed, which though slightly modified, has become the unifying creed for the Church for hundreds of years – it confesses the deity of the Father, Son and Spirit, but it does not mention the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity, while confessed in the church for some time before this, was really put together by Augustine in On the Trinity which he wrote between 400 – 416 AD, some 75 years after Nicea.



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