July 19, 2010

book: experiencing the trinity

Experiencing the Trinity is simultaneously thoughtful while personal and fervent. It is clear from his resume and passionate tone, that author Darrell W. Johnson believes in the power of the exposition of Scripture. And this is his approach in Experiencing the Trinity. In this book, Johnson sets out to explain what exactly the Trinity is to a Christian. And he concludes that understanding the Trinity is to experience the Trinity; to dwell within the Trinity-so to speak (we'll come back to this).

Johnson begins by explaining the nature of the Trinity. He starts with the history of the term. As the term is not used in Scripture, Johnson moves next into explaining how the idea of the Trinity can be seen throughout Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. While thoughtful, Johnson embraces the mystery of the Trinity. Johnson takes the pressure off of the reader when he quotes Dr. Paul Jewett saying, “The church did not formulate the doctrine of the Trinity in order to resolve the mystery of the God’s self-revelation, but rather to preserve that mystery.” And another choice quote on the matter comes from C.S. Lewis, “If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not.”

He admits that this requires faith. But for those who choose faith, what does it matter? Here, he moves right into what it means to live a life molded by the Trinitarian God. Johnson boils this down to three “great disciplines” for application: “The three great disciplines of discipleship—worship, community, mission—cannot be separated, because they are grounded in the Trinity.”

In the common, Western church experience these three elements–worship, community and mission–have been divided into programmatic elements. Within some instances, they can become competing agendas. Yet, we fail at all three when we cling to one. Yet, in our worship, we cannot witness to what God has done if we are not on mission. In our worship, who will offer Christ’s forgiveness when we confess our sins without community? We cannot be a community that is something other than all other social forms without worship, which frames Who designs this community and why we come together (read Hauerwas). And faith communities will perish without mission, which grows, extends and multiplies community; giving it life.

This does not explain the theory of the Trinity. For that, you’ll have to read the book. If anything, it may simply be my attempt to find something to wrap my head around. But I agree with Johnson when he writes-drawing from Leslie Newbigin-it’s hard to follow the Christ of Scripture without grappling with the nature of the Trinity. Still, due the mysterious nature of the Trinity, it requires faith. And that is where I remain.

Posted via email from jason evans

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