Friday, September 04, 2009

The Trinity is everywhere

Over the summer holidays, while we were in South Wales, we visited Big Pit Blaenavon. It closed as a working coal mine thirty years ago. Now it is a museum. But the winding gear still works, and kitted out with a miner's hat and a lamp, they take you down 300 feet underground and give you a tour of the history of the coal mine.

Back in the days before deep mining people dug the coal that they found in outcrops on the hills. Here and there, sticking out of the ground, would be outcrops of coal. You may have thought that all the coal there was was just there on the surface visible to the eye. But that was just an outcrop. Beneath the ground lay millions of tons of coal. Coal was everywhere.

It is like that with the doctrine of the Trinity. Some people read the Bible and they can see that the Trinity is hinted at in a verse here, and a verse there. Perhaps a passage like the baptism of Jesus where the Son is baptized, the Father speaks from heaven, and the Spirit descends in a dove like form. Or the ending of Matthew's Gospel, or Paul's benediction from the end of 2 Corinthians 13. That's where you can see the Trinity. It is in this verse, and that verse, sticking out as it were.

But that is what you see on the surface. In the opening words of Galatians, and as he does throughout his epistles, Paul is praying to God to bless his readers in such a way that he clearly considers the Lord Jesus Christ to be equal to God the Father. He prays to the Father and the Son as equals, and as equally the source of the blessings of grace and peace that the Galatians, and you and I need.

In that economy of words, words so well worn and familiar at the beginning of each of Paul's letters, lies the very foundational reality of Christian theology. Like the coal at Blaenavon you begin to realize that the Trinity is everywhere. Not just here and there in some special verses, but undergirding the whole reality of what it means to know God and to have dealings with God. The Trinity is everywhere.

Let me give you an extract on this point from B. B. Warfield's magnificent article "God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (The Princeton Theological Review, v. xv, 1917, pp. 1-20):

Clearly, the phrase "Jesus Christ and God the Father" denotes something purely Divine. It is in effect a Christian periphrasis for "God." And in this Christian periphrasis for "God" the name of Jesus Christ takes no subordinate place.

Paul places God and the Lord absolutely side by side, as joint source of the blessings he seeks for his readers; addresses his prayers for benefits he desires for his readers to them in common; treats them, in a word, as one.

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