Term Paper, 2017
16 Pages, Grade: 60
THE TRINITY: HOW RELEVANT IS IT?
The Voice of Theologians
The Importance of the Doctrine of Trinity
THE CONCEPT OF THE ECONOMY OF SALVATION
Economy of Salvation
Salvation as an Economy
TRINITY IN THE ECONOMY OF SALVATION
THE IMPLICATION OF THE UNDERSTANDING OF SALVATION ECONOMY IN
THE PRACTICAL LIFE OF A CHRISTIAN
The doctrine of salvation to me is the most crucial doctrine in the history of the church and the most important matter in the life of Christianity. Hence the understanding of the role of the Trinity is very crucial in knowing how salvation really applied to the life of a believer and the Christian faith. For I perceived that the reason why several Christians make little value of their Christian life is due to lack of clear and proper understanding of the works of the Trinity in their Salvation experiences and probably because the transaction was not properly done. These may be the same reason why most Christians are living a life of hypocrisy and void of power, because they understood stricken the role of the Trinity in the Economy of their salvation. Hence they don’t appropriate the efficacy of the power of Trinity in their salvation bargain. No wonder so many Christians resolved to other sources of power in times of crisis and difficulties.
I perceived that the reason why several Christians take little value to their Christian life is the lack of proper understanding of the works of the Trinity in their salvation experiences, and probably because the transaction was not properly done. These may be the reason why most Christians are living a defeated and hypocritical life. Because they understood stricken the role of the individual Persons of the Trinity in the economy of their salvation; hence they don’t appropriate the efficacy of the power of the Trinity in their salvation bargains. No wander, they resolved to other sources of power in their times of crisis and difficulties.
The fact on the importance of the doctrine of salvation was elucidated by the Article Bible.org as they said that “Soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, must be the grandest theme in the Scriptures. It embraces all of time as well as eternity past and future. It relates in one way or another to all of mankind, without exception. It even has ramifications in the sphere of the angels. It is the theme of both the Old and New Testaments. It is personal, national, and cosmic”. But in all its beauty, we don’t seem to understand and appreciate the role the individual Persons of the Godhead play in our salvation economy.
The discussion on the subject of Trinity since it dwindled late fourth century has been very silent in theological discussed until the sixteenth century when most of the theologians advocated that it should not be made to have any relevance to the practical Christian life. Some of those who made such advocacy include Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) who said that “The doctrine of Trinity, taken literally, has no practical relevance at all, even if we think we understand it; and it is even more clearly irrelevant if we realize that it transcends all our concepts. Whether we are to worship three or ten persons in the Deity makes no difference” (Gerald O'Collins 1). On the other hand, Schleiermacher (1768-1834) said that “Our faith in Christ and our living fellowship with him would be the same even if we had no knowledge of any such transcendent fact [as the Trinity] and even if the fact itself were different”. Similarly Karl Rahner said “Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere “Monotheist””. While Bernard Lonergan alluded that the “Trinity is a matter of five notion or properties, four relations, three persons, two processions, one substance or nature, and no understanding” (Gerald O'Collins 2).
All these great theologians seem to allude that the doctrine of Trinity has no practical relevance to the practical life of Christians. But I believe that the importance of the understanding of the Doctrine of Trinity is very relevant and apply a great deal in the practical life of the Christian. It is the understanding of the doctrine that help the Christian to know that he need to pray to the Father through the son with the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught his disciples to pray to the Father through the Name of the Son (Jesus). He also expects them to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth. So the understanding of the Doctrine of Trinity has a great relevance in the practical life of Christians. I believe that if this is not relevant to the Christians’ practical life, then it wouldn’t be so much reflected in most of the apostolic teachings as well as in the Biblical doxologies. Hence O’Collins emphasized the importance of Trinity when he puts it that “Liturgical text clearly maintain that the Trinity is the message of Salvation” (3). Going further he said that “… the earliest Christians’ reflection on the doctrine to be found in the letters of St. Paul. His redefining of Jewish Monotheism put ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ alongside ‘God our Father’ as the joint source of Salvation or ‘grace and peace’ in terms of Paul’s customary greeting to his correspondents” (7-8).
Coming also to the theology of John when he said that ‘God is Love’ (1 John 4:8), it is clear then that this God is not an individual single person, but a community of persons. For one person cannot be said to be love or express love, hence God is not only loving but love and that is expressed and seen not just in his love towards his creation but even before the creation were made, as some more or less rightly said that the bond of unity within the Trinity is Love.
Lacugna emphasized the importance of the doctrine of Trinity in the sense that it helps us to contemplate the mystery of God as well as ourselves. She said it is “a heuristic framework for thinking correctly about God and ourselves in relation to God” (379).
And we know that it is love that made Christ – The God-man to become man in order to save Mankind from the just judgment that their sin deserved. So in the Economy of Salvation, there is no point in time that we can say the Trinity is separated. But for the sake of our human perspective and understanding, and as revealed to our human mind, we shall try to elucidate the various functions of the individual persons of the Godhead as exemplified by the Apostles’ Creed.
(i) The Father: is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:3) and sender of the Son and the Holy Spirit into the world to accomplish the work of salvation so that we might believe and be saved, who also has become our Father. The Apostles’ Creed seems to attribute the work of creation to the Father. In Paul’s understanding the Father is the source of all Grace and Peace (Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1& 2 Thessalonians 1:2). But it was also clear that Paul does not always separate the coming of the Grace and Peace between the Father and the Son, which is a clear indication that he places the Father and the Son on the same category and pedestal. It is the Father who chose the elects for salvation in Christ through the Holy Spirit. “…because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2Thessalonians 2:13 KJV).
(ii) The Holy Spirit: the role of the Holy Spirit in the economy of salvation is seen in that there is nothing that the Son did that the Holy Spirit is not there doing it with Him. Right from the beginning the Holy Spirit is there, Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was anointed by the power of the Holy Spirit to do the works he did; healing and raising the dead, casting out demons and liberating the captives. It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that he was able to “offered Himself without spot to God, and in the energy of that same Spirit was raised from dead” (Goodman 71).
Further elucidating, Goodman said that Jesus’ “authority and guide in life was always the Holy Spirit…” (71). it was the Holy Spirit that also raised Christ from the death as contend in the Book of Romans 8: 11 “…the Spirit of Him that raise up Jesus form the dead…” The Holy Spirit is the one who “makes us holy and deifies us, restores the image of God in our souls and discloses the invisible God. The Spirit lift up our hearts, holds the hand of the infamous, brings us to perfection” (Lacugna 119).
(iii) The Son (Jesus): is the visible image of the invincible God. By whom all things that were created and all things consist. He is the head of the Church which is His body and it is in Him that we receives reconciliation to God through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:15-20; John 1: 1-14). And it is only in Him that we expect the future Glory that shall be reveal at His Glorious appearing at the end of ages. Because he has presented us in His flesh as holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight (Colossians 1: 21-23). He is the …only Son of God, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead (ACTS 7).
Furthermore if the “biblical traditions, however, renders God as a community of Persons dwelling (making a home) among the creation and the people who are called” (Meeks 10), then it is very relevant for us to understand him and worship him as such. Meeks further expounded this truth when he wrote that the “meaning oikonomia is extensively present in the Biblical traditions in connection with God language…” (75). But “Household is an appropriate metaphor to describe the communion of persons where God and Creature meet and unite and now exist together as one” (Lacugna 411).
The major problem underlying the issue of Trinitarian doctrine is that theologians are trying to understand God with human sense and as human person. But if we can come to the level where we can truly say we fully understand the mystery of Trinity, then God ceases to be the mystery he is enshrouded in. but major reason why he deserve our worship and adoration is based on the fact that his ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. We just need to come to the point of accepting him as he revealed himself to us: “God is truly one, and God is truly three’; the phrase is a call for silent adoration before a mystery” (Lienhard 120). The Cappadocian Fathers actually brought relief to the Trinitarian controversy when they concluded that “God is on Ousia in three Hypostaseis” and so Lienhard concluded that they preserves the “Christian monotheism and accounting fully for the biblical confession of Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (99). So the purpose of the doctrine of Trinity is to draw us to intimate worship and submission in reverence to the revelation of God to us of himself.
Since salvation is a transaction there is therefore nothing wrong in seeing it through the eye of an economist. In this context therefore we can say that economy of Salvation can be defined as “God’s history with the creation is the divine economy” (Meeks 75). Throughout the bible we can see that God operated in the principles of economy – the parable of the Talents (Luke 19:11-27), the parable of ‘An Unforgiving Servant’ (Matthew 18:23-35), ‘An Unjust Steward’ (Luke 16:1-13) and the parable of the Goodly Pearl (Matthew 13:44-46).
Therefore the premise upon which I employed the word economy of salvation is because in the modern world, economy is “connected with power gained through the market given the fact that our culture generally regards economy as more important than politics…” and “it will …be possible for many in our time to appreciate the notion of God as property-owning householder” (Meeks 76), since he owns the whole world, as the popular Sunday School song says, “He got the whole world in His hands”.
Therefore referring to the work of salvation as economy is an attempt to express God’s life and work with clarity and concreteness so that the common man on the Street can understand the doctrine of Salvation and how the Trinity operates in applying it to his own life. Catherine Lacugna buttressed this point when she writes that “In general, then, ‘economy’ refers to the plan made known in the coming of Christ” she went further to say that “economy is the actualization in time and history of the eternal plan of redemption, the providential ordering of all things” (25).
An Economist in the ancient language was referred to a person who keeps the swine in the summer so that the household will not have to staff in the winter. In other words we can say that in the ancient language an economist is one who preserves life of the household. The whole of God’s creation is God’s household and what God did through Jesus Christ is life preservation of the whole of his creation from the decay of sin, pains and death. Therefore it was “God as the economist who has made Godself responsible for the life of his fragile household” (Meeks 75). So in the transaction of salvation Meeks seem to be pointing out the fact that God desire to build a household for life which is “neither determine by a natural principle nor closed according to a universally defined human nature” (10). This is because human nature and the world economy are full of sin no matter how good the economy seem to be. Hence God desire to trade his economy with ours, given us a far better economy through the work of salvation in Christ. This is what He did through His eschatological power – the Holy Spirit therefore creates human beings anew and transforming them into his own economy through the work that Jesus did on the cross of Calvary. Hence we are no longer citizens of this world even though we physically live in it, but we belong to a different economy, a spiritual economy – the Heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12: 22-24; 28).
How and why do we have to use the word economy for such an important issue as our salvation? It is because the work of salvation is a transaction and from the various terminologies used in the doctrine of salvation, we can deduce that salvation truly is an economy – a Transaction:
(a) Atonement: the word atonement literally means ‘at-one-ment – reconciliation. Hence without reconciliation there is no going to be any transaction in business, but since in the soteriology there is what is referred to as atonement, it is therefore an economic process.
(b) Propitiation: has a meaning of making something favourable. Unless something is favourable to someone he may not be interested in it, and therefore hardly will any business transaction ensue. But God (The Father) made salvation very favourable to mankind through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. And in return of the soul of man who had been defiled and detestable to god through the contaminations of sin has now been made favourable to God by the act of economy of salvation.
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