Aug 24, 2011
neil

The most important doctrine you never think about

The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung is a perfect introduction to one of the greatest statements of Protestant/Evangelical belief;  the Heidelberg Catechism.

DeYoung tells us why he’s written it in his introduction;

No doubt, the church in the West has many new things to learn. But for the most part, everthing we need to learn is what we’ve already forgotten. The chief theological task now facing the Western Church is not to reinvent or to be relevnat but to remember.

The Catechism is made up of 129 questions and is based on the Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer and in his book DeYoung provides a commentary on the questions in 52 chapters.

By way of taster here is DeYoung on question 25 and his chapter ‘The Most Important Doctrine you Never Think About’

Q. Since there is but one God, why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

A. Because that is how God has revealed Himself in the Word: these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.

First, what does the doctrine mean? The doctrine of the Trinity can be summarised in seven statements

1. There is one God

2. The Father is God

3. The Son is God

4. The Holy Spirit is God

5. The Father is not the Son

6. The Son is not the Holy Spirit

7. The Holy Spirit is not the Father

All three persons of the Tinity share the same ‘Godness.’ One is not more God than another. None is more essentially divine than the rest [but also] the persons are not three Gods; rather, they dwell in communion with each other as they subsist in the divine nature without being compounded or confused.

Why does any of this matter?

DeYoung mentions three to get us thinking;

1. The Trinity matters for creation. God unlike the gods in other creation stories, did not need to go outside Himslef to creat the universe. Instead, the Word and the Spirit were like HIs own two hands (to use Irenaeus’s’ famous phrase) in fashioning the cosmos.

God created by speaking (the WOrd) as teh Spirit hovered over the chaos. Creation, like regeneration, is a Trinitarian act.

2. The Trinity matters for evangelism and cultural engagement.

Islam emphasizes unity – unity of language, culture and expression – wihtout allowing much variance for diversity. Postmodernism, on the other hand, emphasizes diversity – diversity of opinion, beliefs, and background – without attemtplting to see thigns in any kind of meta-unity.

Christianity, with it’s understanding of God as three in one, allows for diversity and unity…It is possible to hope that GOd’s creation may exhibit stunning variety and individuality while still holding together in a genuine oneness.

3. The trinity matters for relationships.

Without a plurality of persons in the Godhead, we would be forced to think that God created humans so that He might show love and know love, thereby making love a created think (and God a needy deity). But with a biblical understanding of the Trinity, we can say that God did not create in order to be loved, but rather, created out of the overflow of the perfect love that had always existed among Father, Son and Holy Spirit who ever live in perfect and mutual relationship and delight.

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