Do the Father, Son and Holy Spirit Get Your Equal Attention?
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
The beginning of our statement of faith affirms, “The only true God, the almighty Creator of all things, existing eternally in three persons (,) Father, Son and Holy Spirit (,) full of love and glory.” As a third-year InterVarsity campus staff, I am increasingly fascinated with how, despite our many differences as an organization, we have unity around the Trinity. Yet I’ve also noticed that people view the Trinity through different lenses.
Though this beautiful Trinitarian formula lays out the three distinct yet interdependent and indivisible persons of the Godhead, to engage them all equally can be far easier said than done. Overly focusing on one person of the Trinity at the expense of the others severely limits and distorts our overall awaress of God. God always wants to change this, to expand our understanding of the love and glory resident in the tripartite Trinity.
For the sake of fuller participation in God, I will briefly highlight some of the possible causes and effects of these various inflated views and link them to our campus work.
Our different ethnic and denominational identities can lead us to focus more on one person of the Trinity than others.
For instance, among many Black Christians I know who have suffered significantly in this country due to their skin color, I have noticed a strong affinity with Jesus, God the Son in assumed flesh. Like them, he too suffered significantly in society as a member of oppressed Israel at the hands of a religious and political leaders. Additionally, because I grew up Arminian (United Methodist) I tend not to focus significantly on God the Father’s sovereignty. By contrast, my Reformed brothers and sisters tend to embrace it quite well.
We need not bemoan these difference in viewpoints. To the contrary, the differences can remind me, and us, that God calls us from diverse backgrounds together for the sake of better informing one another’s theological viewpoints. We therefore ought to rejoice in the diversity that we have and treasure that gift in InterVarsity as we learn from people of diverse ethnic and denominational viewpoints.
Let’s do that not only for our own sakes but also for the life of our Fellowships.
Given the Jesus-centered nature of the movement it can be very easy to talk about Jesus apart from the other two persons of the Trinity. The reality is that Jesus is always pointing us back to the Father with whom he is one, and Jesus always walks in step with the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21, John 10:30). As such, we can only understand Jesus if we understand the Father to whom he was obedient and the Spirit that enabled him to be so. And when we all see the other two persons of the Trinity intimately involved in the life of God incarnate, we can receive more fully that call from Jesus to participate in God. This means we experience the warm embrace of God the Father who helps his incarnate Son and we more readily claim the empowerment of the Spirit of God, the one whom Jesus said would be with us always in this world (John 16:7). Engaging these different persons of the Trinity ironically enables us to better understand and follow Jesus.
What’s more, helping others see why they choose to emphasize one person over another will ultimately help disciple them in terms of their ethnic and denominational identities, both of which are gifts from God. Indeed, better understanding the communal identity of God fills out our appreciation of who God is. It reminds us that God cannot be bound by any respective ethnic group’s necessarily finite experiences of God nor is he confined to the biases and limitations of denominations.
The mystery of the inextricably linked tripartite Trinity in our statement of faith constantly expands our understanding of self, the other, and God, which invariably draws us closer to our Creator, Savior, and Guide. May we as staff and student leaders rejoice that we can join together in the intimate exploration of this God full of love and glory.
Julian Reid has been a campus staff at Yale University since 2013 and currently also serves as the BCM Coordinator for New England. In the fall he’ll be matriculating at Candler School of Theology at Emory University for his Master of Divinity degree, chiefly interested in Black Church studies and Theology & Ethics. Together with his wife Carmen (who also did InterVarsity while an undergrad at Yale) Julian lives in New Haven. In addition to ministry and academic theological reflection he loves jazz.
The blog is an avenue for staff and student leaders to hear from the visionary leaders of Collegiate Ministries about theological formation, discipleship, chapter planting, chapter growth, and other key ministry themes for campus work.