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 http://www.michaelgungor.com/.
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)