Essentials of Wesleyan Theology - Lesson 4
Doctrine of God
God’s omnipotence includes the idea that he has chosen to limit himself in some ways. God’s self-limitation results from the love of God. When God’s love is separated from his holiness, it degenerates into sentimentality. God’s love and holiness are distinct but inseparable. God’s wrath is an expression of his love for us because he takes himself and sin seriously. The opposite of love is indifference. Wrath is how we experience God’s love when we resist his will. (Ppt 2, slides 36-58)
For the chart that Dr. Seamands mentions on peoples' concept of God, please see the book Healing of Memories by David A. Seamands, chapter 7.
Doctrine of God
I. Wesleyan Theology and the Doctrine of God
A. Introduction to Wesleyan Theology
B. Theological Foundations of the Doctrine of God
II. Attributes of God in Wesleyan Theology
A. God's Immutability
B. God's Omnipotence
C. God's Omniscience
D. God's Omnipresence
III. The Trinity in Wesleyan Theology
A. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
B. The Economic and Immanent Trinity
C. The Importance of the Trinity in Wesleyan Thought
IV. God's Relationship with Creation
A. God's Creative Activity
B. God's Providence and Sovereignty
C. God's Love and Grace
- By studying the Essentials of Wesleyan theology, you learn about its historical roots, key principles, and the importance of grace, holiness, and Christian perfection in this theological perspective.
- Through this lesson, you gain a thorough understanding of Wesleyan theology, its tasks, key theological perspectives, and distinctives, providing you with a solid foundation for further exploration of the Wesleyan tradition.
- In this lesson, you gain insight into Wesleyan theology's goal of pursuing holiness through sanctification, understanding the three stages and the practical implications for discipleship, spiritual growth, and the church's role.
- In this lesson, you explore the doctrine of God in Wesleyan theology, learning about His attributes, the Trinity, and His relationship with creation.
- Through this lesson, you gain a deep understanding of the Trinity from a Wesleyan perspective, exploring its scriptural basis, historical development, and practical implications for Christian living.
- This lesson deepens your understanding of the Trinity from a Wesleyan perspective, emphasizing its historical development, implications for Christian faith, and the significance of love and relationship within the Godhead.
- Gain insight into Wesleyan theology's Doctrine of Creation, its biblical basis, and the practical implications it has on understanding God's sovereignty, human responsibility, and stewardship of creation.
- Through this lesson, you gain insights into Wesleyan theology's understanding of Christ's person and work, exploring key concepts like the Incarnation, Atonement, and Second Coming.
- In this lesson, you gain insight into the incarnation of Jesus Christ, its dual nature, and its implications in revealing God's nature, redemption, atonement, and modeling holiness.
- In this lesson, you gain a comprehensive understanding of the Cross of Christ in Wesleyan theology, exploring atonement theories, the scope and application of atonement, and its impact on the believer's life.
- By studying the Cross of Christ Part 2, you gain insights into the theological concepts of the cross and the unique features of Wesleyan theology, ultimately learning how to apply these principles in your daily Christian life.
- By examining the significance of the resurrection in Wesleyan theology, you gain insight into its foundational role in Christian faith, its connection to justification and sanctification, and its far-reaching theological implications for believers.
In this class on the Essentials of Wesleyan Theology, you explore the historical background and development of Methodism, its key doctrines, and the unique approach to Scripture that John Wesley promoted. You gain a deeper understanding of prevenient grace, justification, assurance, sanctification, and the concept of Christian perfection. Furthermore, you learn about Wesley's quadrilateral of authority, his emphasis on holiness, and the impact of Wesleyan theology on social reform, evangelism, and contemporary Christian thought and practice.
Dr. Steve Seamands
Essentials of Wesleyan Theology
Doctrine of God
[00:00:26] Well, I want to take this last hour together. Are you up for one more hour here, folks? Yeah. And. Think with you about one more very important aspect and then in relationship to the doctrine of God, and that is that God is triune. And of course this is a part of the Apostles Creed as well. The word. Obviously, the word Trinity doesn't show up in the Apostles Creed, but there is a threefold structure, isn't there, to the Apostles Creed, the first article of the Creed it is, I believe in God, the Father, and then the second. And in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord. And then thirdly, I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church. So you have that that structure. And of course, all three of the persons of the of the Trinity are are mentioned here in the Apostles Creed. Ordained I think does a pretty good job presenting the scriptural basis for. The affirmation that God is three in one, and he shows how the church, in a sense, in the fourth and fifth century, was forced to make explicit, which really in Scripture is only implicit. The word trinity is not found anywhere in the New Testament, is it? But sometimes you have to say something beyond Scripture. To be able to say rightly what is in Scripture tomorrow morning when we talk about Maker of Heaven and Earth and we talk about that word X and say hello out of nothing. Well, that's another extra biblical term that Christians have found really significant and important in helping us really understand what the Bible's trying to say. And I think the word Trinity is like that as well. So we won't try to get into some of the things that he does in his discussion.
[00:02:22] What I want to begin by is just recognizing that when we form attempt to formulate. An understanding of the Trinity or work that out. We can hardly begin before we bump up against the mystery. Of. The Trinity, the mystery of God that's there in the Trinity. We can come up with analogies. For the Trinity. So what's your favorite analogy for the Trinity? Or what ones have you heard commonly used? Water, ice and steam. You know any others? An apple. You know, the skin, the the the the economy of the apple, the core of the apple, you know, and sometimes an egg is used similarly to to an apple. I had a student said, well, what about Neapolitan ice cream, you know? Well, analogies can be useful and helpful up to a point, although all of them do break down and all of them actually end up in a Trinitarian heresy if you take them to an extreme, You know. So there's this mystery of the Trinity. Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the early church fathers, one of the Cappadocian fathers, from what today is, modern day Turkey says that from the day he became a Christian. From that day, he says, My eyes have been blinded by the light of the Trinity, whose brightness surpasses all that the mind can conceive. And he goes on. And in this in this passage, that you have it out in quotes, no sooner do I conceive of the one, then I'm illumined by the splendor of the three. No sooner do I distinguish them, then I'm carried 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'm thinking escapes me.
[00:04:25] I love that. The mystery of the Trinity. But I want to submit to you this afternoon. But this is part of of the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity. Dan, several times in our discussion together, you've used that word mystery and you've talked about kind of being comfortable with with mystery and affirming mysteries, you know? I want to simply say that I think that one of the things that the doctrine of the Trinity does for us as Christians is that it both underscores and provides a foundation for our belief in an understanding of the mystery of God. And that's not a bad thing. You know. How do you comprehend this? See, it kind of. Sticks it right in your face. Three and one. And one and three. In the fairly recent new Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church in relationship to the Trinity. It says the Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith in life, and it is the source of all other mysteries of Christian faith. The light that enlightens them. It establishes and safeguards the mystery of God. A few years ago, Eugene Peterson, who most of us are perhaps most familiar with through the message, but who's written some wonderful books. I don't know if any of you have dipped into his recent series of books Eat this book. Christ plays in a thousand Places. You know that series that he's actually kind of finished up recently with the last book called Practicing the Resurrection. All good books. But he was on our campus lecturing and he made the statement that the Trinity is our best defense against reductionism. What do you think he means by that? The Trinity is our best defense against reductionism. There is this tendency and I think we Americans are really well, we're sort of good at this.
[00:06:31] We tend to be very pragmatic. That's not necessarily all bad, but we tend to want to reduce things sometimes. And folks want that kind of a religion, don't they? Sometimes they want simple answers. They want you to be able to put it in a sound, into a sound bite. What the Trinity does, is it just kind of in your face won't let you do that? It stands over against that. You see if this is ultimate reality. Okay. If God is ultimate reality and if God's creation reflects who God is. Don't you think that that he's built that ultimate reality into the way he's made things, then, therefore, to try to reduce things down to a kind of a simplicity? The Trinity flies in the face of that. I like what Einstein said. He said everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. Yes. It's good to make things simple. And yet sometimes reductionism, don't you think, wants to make things a little too simple? For example, trying to understand the relationship between faith and healing can get you into a lot of trouble. And you can pick up the pieces of the tragedies in people's lives who, you know, have been told, well, if you had just believed. A 45 year old guy said in a Sunday school class. I was on, you know, a well-meaning pastor said that to me when I was 13 about my grandfather who died. If you just had faith, you know? He wouldn't have died. And he said, I'm a 45 year old man. The guy has a he's a counselor now, But he says, I know I should know better, but I still struggle. Sometimes with bad feelings about that whole thing. Well, this oversimplistic view of the relationship between faith and healing Now, is there no relationship between faith and healing? Well, I think there is, clearly.
[00:08:39] I can take you to about 13 New Testament passages where, you know, Jesus commends people for their faith and, you know, but it's not the sort of cause and effect relationship, is it? It's more complex than that. We've got gospels out there that want to make things more simple than they are. I also like what another scientist philosopher, said, Alfred North Whitehead. He was a mathematician, actually, who then became a. Philosopher process philosophy. That was sort of a foundation to what became process theology. But he says the only simplicity to be trusted. Here's the simplicity on the far side of complexity. Is that a confusing statement? What he might mean by that. It's kind of like the church wrestling for 125 years with the nature of Christ and finally coming up with this one sentence. Christ is fully divine, fully human, and fully one. That simplicity is on the far side of complexity, isn't it? It was arrived at. Through a lot of in-depth discussion and looking at every jot and tittle and every imaginable way of coming at things. And then you kind of come out over here and it's sort of like a Carl Bart who gets asked toward the end of his life, you know, after he's written 8000 pages of church dogmatic. To summarize it all. And he says, Well, I guess when you boil it all down, it's Jesus loves me. This I know for the Bible tells me so. But when he makes that statement, that's a simplicity that's been arrived at. On the far side of complexity. I've been thinking about my own life recently as I've gotten older. You know, it seems like. Faith is becoming more simple for me. Than it once was. I'm finding it easier just to be a little child again.
[00:10:53] But I've thought about that in the light of this statement here. And I think that actually it's a simplicity that's kind of been arrived at through. Working through all the complexities. Anyway, the Trinity. The main thing we're trying to say recognize that mystery is a part and parcel of the way things are. It's built into existence, isn't it? It's a combination of things. But I find myself able to sort of just sort of trust that what I'm hearing is the Lord. Whereas there was a time when I would have, you know, been concerned, Did I get that right? And, you know, I know I can tell you all the stories of people that think they heard the Lord that, you know, did a lot of damage. And part of it is, I think, a point of a place of surrender. But it's also having kind of worked through some of the bad, looked at the bad, the good and the ugly and, you know, and seen all that. And yet now it's kind of like I don't even worry about it. It's you kind of arrive at the other side and I can't explain it but. And so it's almost like God says that I believe that that settles it. It's that simple. But it's no that's been arrived at through a lot of years of walking with sort of fear and trembling. You know, I can't even explain it very well. But I know I think what he's saying is true. And but the Trinity teaches me that. Life has mystery in it. We had Stuart and Jill Briscoe on campus and she made a statement in chapel that I thought that the Trinity teaches us that you cannot unscrew the and screw the inscrutable there is.
[00:12:41] That mystery to life and existence. And of course, Augustine is famous for this statement about the person that denies the Trinity is in danger of losing their salvation. But whoever tries to understand the Trinity is in danger of losing his mind. You know. That's good. Then it's out there because cults generally have one thing in common. They maybe have more than one thing in common, but one thing they do have in common is that they all tend to deny the Trinity. Cults generally tend to want to know too much. They usually have a a a book or a person who offers them a a revelation of things that's beyond what's in scripture. And they want to know. And it's actually a way of getting control, isn't it? So the Trinity protects us from that. I think it keeps us in our place. It's a way of saying I'm God and you're not. It keeps me in a posture of having of having to have faith. I can't put God in a box, as we say. I can't figure this whole thing out. It forces me into a posture of humility. And faith. So the very nature of God helps to evoke for me the things that are necessary to be in a relation, a good relationship with him, humility and faith. I remember having to learn this little poem when I was in the eighth grade many moons ago. And here's Alfred Tennyson, a Victorian poet who just looking at a flower in a little wall in a wall, says, I pluck you out of the crannies. I hold you their root and all in my hand, little flower. But. But if I could understand what you are. Rude and all. And all in all, I should know what God and man, as he's saying, there's a mystery in this little flower here.
[00:15:01] And how it grows and what it is. That's beyond. My ability. Isn't there this this element of mystery and everything? You know, just get married to somebody and you'll. There's a sense in which, you know, the more and more. And yet they're always a mystery to. And you never get past that, do you? The mystery of the Trinity. Recognized that. I want to shift gears now. And suggest that. Even though there is a mystery. It is legitimate for faith to try to seek understanding. And so there is a rightful kind of way to say, wait a minute, it does make sense to believe in the Trinity. And here's Roderick Lopp, who's written a pretty good book about the Trinity, saying that while the try and God is utter mystery, the doctrine of the Trinity is not itself mystery, but is the human attempt. Admittedly nurtured by grace, enlivened by love and extended toward hope to understand the Trinity. And so there is a right, a rightful. And an appropriate faith seeking, understanding and relationship to the Trinity. That is to say, I don't think it's enough simply to say, Well, it's a mystery. Let's just leave it at that completely. But like a term like para crisis. Comes out of the church's attempt throughout the centuries to kind of come to terms with this mystery and to try to at least make some sense out of it. And words like persons. A word we use in our English language, but actually came to us out of the Trinitarian debates, the word persona. These are attempts to kind of make some sense out of the Trinity, you might say. The two major analogies for the Trinity that have been used. They both come out of the ancient church.
[00:17:18] To make some sense out of the the Trinity. First of all, the cycle, what's often referred to as the psychological analogy, which was made most popular and stated, I think most profoundly by August and his work on the Trinity written in the fifth century. He finds the best analogy by looking inward, by observing the psychological process which goes on with an individual human beings, particularly in the process of knowing to know something he says, involves three things. There's got to be a capacity to know what he calls memory. If you've had someone that you've known that's in the late stages of Alzheimer's, you know that some folks don't have the capacity. To hold information anymore. Then there's something there's understanding which he which is actually the object known. And then there is will, which is the action that brings memory and understanding together. So, you know, throughout this class, you guys have been demonstrating this. You have this capacity to know. And let's just say that that PowerPoint slide is the object known. You also have a choice as you're sitting there, whether you're whether you're going to put the two together or not. You might just want to doze off or drift off if you want to. You see how well brings the two together? He suggests that in the very process of knowing there's a kind of Trinitarian, a Trinitarian movement that's played out every time, you know. I mean, this happens a hundreds of times every day, right? Every time. You know, anything. This is going on. So he says the Trinity is analogous to this. We think of the father as the knower. The sun as the object known. And the Holy Spirit is the bond of knowing that unites the Father and the Son.
[00:19:25] He also suggested that you can do the same thing with love. Lover, beloved, and the bond of love which unites them. Same kind of process here. The strength of this analogy is, is that that it it sort of stresses the oneness of the three. I mean, think about this analogy. You start with one mind, one human mind. You're you might say you're your brain, you're your head, and all of this going on within your head in the process of knowing. So it starts with with a one part one mind and it breaks out the knowing process into three. But it's kind of functional in the sense that it's pretty hard to differentiate these three things, isn't it, in the process of knowing. I mean, they're just sort of three sort of different aspects of an act of knowing. The other analogy comes from the, you might say, the Eastern Church tradition, the social analogy from the Cappadocian Fathers Cappadocia. I would be in modern day turkey and we're talking about two Gregory's Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory the Great and Basil. These three guys that that right. And their primary analogy for the Trinity doesn't start with the individual in the process of knowing, but they start with a community. The family. And suggests that, you know in a family you've got an I allow an away. Father, mother, child, and that for there to be a family, there has to be a trinity. Obviously this particular analogy is much better, don't you think, in stressing the. Distinctiveness of the persons as over against different facets of just knowing. And so this particular analogy tends to stress the, you might say, the three ness of God. And actually in the Eastern tradition they start which where should you start? Should you start with a three and move to the one or should you start with a one and move to the three? What's the approach that the DOWDEN takes? Notice the ordering of the material there and then the doctrine of God.
[00:21:58] Does the chapter on the Trinity come first? Now he really starts with a one, does he? The unity of God and even the attributes of God that are just attributes that God shares within himself. And then he moves from there to the moral attributes. And then finally you get to what is it, chapter five or so, which is the chapter on the Trinity. So he starts really with the one and then most of the three. In the Eastern church, they would say, no, you should start with a three. And moved to the one. Our Eastern church brothers and sisters have actually been better over the centuries and stressing the Trinity as three than we have because the Western church, which is what most of us actually have come out of. The Latin side from Augustan onward has tended to be better at emphasizing the oneness of God than we have the three ness of God. How many churches do you know, for example? How many Protestant churches do you know that that really are almost by an Italian? And not really Trinitarian. Very little emphasis on the Holy Spirit. Lack of emphasis on the spirit. A lot of scholars in the last, let's just say 50 years have picked up on this and noticed this, that in the West. We tend to pin everything back on August and here as the bad guy, even though it's a little more complex than that as it usually is. He starts with the one individual. Shows you how that one process of knowing can be broken into three parts. But most of them have suggested that perhaps what we need is to recapture a greater emphasis on this particular way of thinking about the Trinity. And most Western theologians today in their they're speculating about the Trinity are, in a sense, hearkening back to the eastern side of things, wanting to recapture some of this, which I think, by the way, is a good thing.
[00:24:17] Bryant. And I have a question about Justice Warren. The creation story it talks about. He uses the plural word uses our Let us make man in our image. Yeah. Is that a good interpretation? Okay. The early church fathers read an intimation of the Trinity there. You know that. God, let us make man who's God talking to. What's the point? You know? And they suggested that's a kind of a kind of an intimation of the Trinity, you know, not. Now, modern biblical scholars would say, oh, they were they were reading then into that verse again. Basically, what you have there in Hebrew is what they call a plural of majesty. Where, you know, a king is talking to the people in his court. And he says, Let's do this. But it's a way of emphasizing the majesty of the king and the majesty of this person who's saying this. So it's not. So that's the reason the writer uses it. The hard. You would read that. Like how? Yeah. Yeah. Obviously, they don't they're not going to say that's Trinitarian. They would say that's just a and you find something similar like in Isaiah six. Then I heard the Lord say, Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? Well, who's the US that God's talking to? It's all. It's almost like. And he's. You know, I saw the Lord seated on Throne High and lifted up. So you in the. In the presence of the King and the court. You kind of talk that way in plural. Form, but you really it's not meant to be really thought of. It's the king talking kind of reasoning within himself in that way. This is the interesting thing. The early church fathers, when they interpret the Bible, they just they just come at it differently than we do they.
[00:26:22] For them, the real the big question, which for for us the question is and even going back to the Genesis conversation we were having. What was the authorial intent to write? What did the original author tend to mean by that for them in the early church? And part of the reason we have a hard time sometimes understanding how they go about executing scripture, their question is. What is the whole the intent of the whole of scripture? Because they said everything in the Scripture points points to Christ. So they're looking for the message of the whole of scripture. And it's kind of like. You know, we'd say, you can't see the forest for the trees. They want to see the whole forest and every tree. So for them to see a Trinitarian avail to Trinitarian reference in Genesis 126, Yes is to read the Bible rightly, because you've seen it from the whole of Scripture, you know, And we look back at that and they say, Oh, you're you're not doing justice to the Bible. You're isolating it. Right. You're reading back into it. But for them, that was the the thing you were supposed to do. You know, they didn't think you'd finished reading the Bible. You could read it on different levels. You could read it just as what the author meant. But you needed to go to that level where you saw the whole of the Bible in that, you know, what does the whole of Scripture have to say about that? And so that's why they tend to read the typological sometimes what we would call allegorical interpretation. And for them, that just made perfect sense. To us. It drives us nuts. I think what's going on today in biblical studies and in biblical among biblical scholars is actually there's a recognition that this historical grammatical approach to exegesis that we've had that's dominated us since the Enlightenment, you know, that's a good approach, but to completely rule out the others.
[00:28:30] Is not so. So. Why, as we might have thought it was. Where I want to go now with this discussion is is to consider the Trinity and to think with you about the Trinity as the basis for understanding the Christian worldview. Okay. We as Christians have a worldview, don't we? What does the Trinity tell us about the way Christians understand the ultimate nature of things? You see this shield of the Trinity? This is in your text, isn't it? Yes. I forget what page it's on, but anyway, you can find it in that chapter. This is kind of from the Middle Ages. And of course, it's in Latin. So here's the question I want to ask you. Based on this picture here of the Trinity. Do you see? Unity. In the Christian worldview. Is there unity? Okay. Now, let me ask you another question. What kind of unity is it? Is it absolute undifferentiated unity? Or is it differentiated unity? It's differentiated, isn't it? You notice the asked not asked and the asked. The unity is that the father the part Patria philia spirit of Santos in Latin. They're all they're all God, right. There's unity. There's one God. And yet you see the non asked The father is not the son and the son is not the spirit and and the spirit and so forth, you know. The Christian worldview says that there's unity, but that ultimate reality is not undifferentiated unity. It's differentiated unity, and it's differentiation without fragmentation. Something's holding that together, Right? You know, stay with me here, because this does actually have some very practical significance. Harold Turner, who is a authority in world religions, used to teach at the University of London. One of our faculty, Eunice Erwin, who teaches in that school, actually studied under this man.
[00:31:04] He says there's actually three, only three three major possible ways of understanding the world. He says the first way of understanding the world. He calls it the atomic worldview. Think of billiard balls on a pool table. Each one of them is an individual unit of reality. Each ball constitutes an individual unit of reality. Atomic in the sense that each atom is an individual unit of reality. Okay. In this way of looking at the world, the human individual, each one of us in this room then would be like a billiard ball. And each one of us is an autonomous center of knowing and willing. Now, that's the view of reality that has tended to dominate Western society. Remember what Descartes said. I think, therefore I am. Each one of us, then who makes the decisions for what you do with your life? Who decides who you marry? In Western culture. You do. Come to Asia with me. And I'll show you a different way of doing it. That might start with a family as being more. Essential. Then you as an individual or a person within a family. Okay. You see where I'm going with this? I mean, this this leads to kind of our typical Western individualism. Where each one of us makes up our mind about things. And no one has a right to tell you what to do. And you decide when you end up with moral relativism, what do you end up with each one of us kind of making becoming the final say over what's right and wrong for me and so forth? Think about America. Our Declaration of Independence. Freedom is understood as independence and from others, as you know, and I spent some time in Canada a few years ago, and I thought, you know, these folks are a lot like us, but they're not quite like us Americans.
[00:33:37] A lot of them said, Oh yeah, my ancestors lived in the US, but then during the Revolutionary War they did. They didn't agree with the. The Patriots. They wanted to be loyal to the King. So they moved to Canada. Well, they did get their independence eventually, didn't they? But it worked out a little differently. So this has been a part and parcel of who we are. That's, you know, and it kind of leads an American culture today to a hyper individualism, doesn't it? That's one worldview. Then. Then there's the second worldview that we might call the oceanic worldview. Now in the oceanic worldview, all things ultimately are merged into one entity. That is the soul of everything that exists. And if you can imagine individual raindrops, what happens to them when they hit the ocean? They lose their individual identity and they're merged into the whole. What's the great world religion that tends to Hindu. That's that's this is this is really the this is pantheism isn't it that eventually everything is going to get merged into one. And there may be distinctions now between men and women. Between right and wrong. But eventually all that's going to go away, it's going to all get merged into one. Then there's the relational worldview, according to Turner, which is symbolized by a net. You have distinct strands in a net, and yet they're all connected. And in this worldview. Everything is constituted by relationship. In other words, there's interdependence. Not so much independence, but there's interdependence. So which of those three do you think? His closest to the Christian worldview as embodied in the Trinity. Number three. Yeah. The atomic worldview. Well, that would. It's sort of like that would take the three persons of the Trinity and kind of break them off, wouldn't it? And you'd see three, three persons.
[00:36:15] That would be actually three individuals. On the other hand, the oceanic worldview would want to actually suggest that maybe there going to be a time when the father and the son that all that all of them are going to kind of get merged into one. But according to Scripture, is the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit ever going to quit being the three? No. Those distinctions are there for all eternity, aren't they? So this last one then signifies that, yes, there's there's distinct strands, but they're interconnected. And even the names of the persons of the Trinity imply relationship. Father. Well, if you're a father, aren't you? By very definition in relationship. To a child. And Sun does not imply. Relationship. That's those are words that, by their very nature constitute relationship. The Christian worldview says. That there's distinctions that are eternal, and yet there's also relationships. And and the Christian worldview sees relationship at the heart of things and the very essence of things. Everything is constituted by relationship. Colin Gunton, a British theologian, has written quite a bit about the Trinity, says God appears to be conceived neither as a collectivity nor as an individual. But as a communion. A unity of persons in relation. Timothy. George who? Has written quite a bit, actually has written a book with almost the question that you're having to reflect on based on Tenet's book says, one, we peer into the heart of God. We find not a solitary absoluteness. That's what you find in Islam, isn't it? The alone with the alone. But the mystery of eternal love and relationship. A begetting without a beginning. An indwelling without an ending. That's the Christian understanding of God. If I can quote Peterson a little bit, when he was on our campus, he made this statement that God exists in personal relationship and therefore cannot be known in any other way except by relationship.
[00:38:53] He goes on to say in his recent book, Eat this book, God is relational at the core. And so whatever is said, whatever is revealed, whatever is received, is also personal and relational. There's nothing impersonal, nothing merely functional. Everything from beginning to end and in between is personal. God is inherently. And. Inclusively personal. God's not like the force. You notice that? Yoda says to Luke Skywalker, May the force be with you? One of the things I've noticed is the force never talks back to Luke. The force is sort of like electricity, isn't it? You can kind of use it to make things work better for you, but you can also get chopped if you're not careful. But it's something impersonal. What this tells me is that when I reduce things to the impersonal and when I make things. Impersonal. I'm going against the flow of the universe. I'm going against the Christian understanding of reality that according to Peterson, for example, that whatever is revealed, whatever is received is also personal and relational. For example, think about the the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I've met a lot of people that want. An experience with a Holy Spirit. But what they're really looking for is a sort of a divine zap. You know, they want kind of like Popeye spinach, something that will kind of empower them. But it's not relational. Something's wrong here. Because if God exists in relationship and can only be known in personal relationship, then then does that stand to reason that if one is going to have an experience with the Holy Spirit, it may have some manifestations. You know, a person might shake or fall or cry or, you know, it may it may manifest itself in some way like that, but don't reduce the essence of the of the thing to that, for goodness sakes.
[00:41:27] Because if you've done that. You've gone against the very nature of God. Say God exists in relationship. It was interesting a few years ago. Larry Crabb. Who at the time was kind of at the top of the. Pecking order among Christian. Councilors. He wrote this book connecting. And it was a critique of what's what he thought had has tended to go wrong in the Christian community when it comes to the whole question of counseling and therapy. And he said in that book, he makes the statement, We must do something other than train professional experts to fix, fix damaged psyches. The problem beneath our struggles is a disconnected soul. And we must do something more than exhort people to do what's right and hold them accountable. These are two approaches, you know, within evangelical Christianity. We have discipleship programs where you put people in groups and try to hold them accountable. And tell them to stop doing those things and maybe pray harder. But then you have others that say, well, if you've got a problem, you need to go see a counselor. So we shipped them off. To a counselor and fix their damaged psyche. He says groups tend to emphasize accountability when they don't know how to relate. It finally suggests what we really need rather than fixing psyches or scolding centers. We must provide nourishment for the disconnected soul. I think. Larry Crabb. Backed into the Trinity. What do I mean? Backed into the Trinity. He discovered that at the heart of things is this is a relationship. So often. What heals people in a counseling setting is not the particular techniques that the counselor uses. It's just the fact that that this counselor establishes a relationship with a person. Cares about them.
[00:43:51] Listens to them. Here's them heart to heart. And somehow the very relationship itself is the healing is the healing medicine. Somehow, in the context of relationship, the Holy Spirit can come and heal people and do things. That's kind of where he's coming from. And he's been emphasizing ever since this book that he wrote about ten years ago, the need for spiritual direction. And spiritual formation is a more holistic approach than the kinds of things that he critiques here. You know, this is one version of reality, right? This is actually actually, this is the oceanic view, isn't it? This is Hinduism, basically. I like Tolkien's view better in The Lord of the Rings. It's the fellowship of the Ring season. It. I love this statement. But Gandalf. You know, Elrond is complaining at the beginning what you're saying. How in the world can we can we put the whole burden of saving Middle Earth on these hobbits? Again, I think there's a thing about power there that's being said to us about how to make shall inherit the earth. You know what we're saying this morning? But I love the statement where Gandalf says, Well, I think around that in this matter, it would be well to trust. Rather, to their friendship. Then to their great wisdom. It's going to be their friendship. It's going to be Sam and Frodo. And their ties. You see. And he's actually, I think, conveying here. The Trinitarian vision of reality that there is its relational. It's relational.