Archive for January, 2013

321321 begins by associating God with three-ness.  “God is three Persons united in love” says the presentation.  And occasionally people have asked, “What about God’s one-ness?”

Well the short answer is – it’s right there in the explanation: “three Persons united in love.” That phrase is just trying to unpack the word Trinity which is itself only the squashing together of “tri” and “unity”.  Just from the word ‘Trinity’ it should be clear how the church has considered God’s one-ness historically. God’s one-ness is a unity of the Three.  It’s not a unity apart from the Three or underneath the Three. But often we think like that.

It’s always revealing when people say things like: “Trinity is great but we also need to focus on God’s unity.” This is literally the same as saying “The unity of the Three is great, but we also need to talk about the unity of God.”  At that point we really need to ask, “What is this second kind of unity you want to talk about? And what is this God you want to talk about apart from discussion of the Three?”  Those are worrying questions to raise!

To answer them, people sometimes try to wheel in Gregory of Nazianzen for support. In doing so they make him say the precise opposite of what he meant.  Here’s his famous quote:

No sooner do I conceive of the one than I am illumined by the splendour of the three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the one.

Wonderful theology. Yet in a heartbeat the thought can get turned into…

Once I’ve spent a decent amount of time thinking about the one God of monotheism, I then force myself to spend the same amount of time considering Father, Son and Spirit.  And once I’ve given equal airtime to the Three, I return to my philosophically defined monad.

But that couldn’t be further from Gregory’s meaning. The One simply is the profound interpenetration of the Three and the Three just are ‘in’ each other in unloseable, mutually-constituting, ontological oneness. Gregory is not saying that we ought not to think of one-ness and three-ness separately. He’s saying we cannot do it.  The one and the three are strictly mutually-defining concepts.

Yet every time someone says “Let’s not prioritise trinity, let’s give equal time to the unity” they attempt this feat.  Whatever three-ness they’re considering apart from the one-ness – it’s not the true three-ness of God. Whatever one-ness they’re considering apart from the three-ness – it’s not the true one-ness of God.

So here’s my offer. I will happily major on the one-ness of God for the rest of my life. I will rename the website one-two-one.org – cool, still has a nice ring to it.  But I’ll do it on one condition: can we please all agree that this oneness is the one-ness of Jesus with His Father?

You see, if we’re talking about Christ, if we’re talking about the gospel, if we’re talking about salvation, then whatever one-ness we uphold must not destroy the concrete Person of Jesus. It must not mess with the gospel economy in which the Son lives and dies before the Father, is exalted and ministers before Him.  It must not dissolve our salvation in which the Son bears us before the Father. If Jesus, if the gospel, if salvation determines our God-talk then the one-ness we maintain must be a one-ness of distinct Persons mustn’t it?  It must be a one-ness that includes difference and interplay and relationship mustn’t it?

So if the one-ness we’re talking about is the “one-ness” of Jesus with His Father then sign me up. I couldn’t be more for “one-ness”.  I’ll talk about this one-ness until Jesus returns.  But some want to talk about another one-ness – a one-ness that would dissolve the Person of Jesus, His gospel, His salvation. A one-ness that would involve not merely looking away from ‘the Three’ in some abstract sense, but looking away from Jesus and His gospel in order to know God. To look to this other one-ness is to look away from the God of Jesus and we must never do that.

There can be only one kind of one-ness. And it’s the one-ness of the Three.

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Jesus baptism 10
Which Gospel has the most trinitarian opening?  John right?

Nah! Binitarian maybe ;-)

I’m going to plump for Mark. That’s right, Mark: the Gospel we take refuge in because it doesn’t rub that Trinity stuff in our faces. Yep, Mark has the most Trinitarian opening of them all:

“The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

A whole theology is contained in the name “Jesus Christ, the Son of God”.  The true Joshua – the LORD who is salvation – comes among us. He is eternally anointed with the Holy Spirit (the Christ). He is eternally Son of the Father. And His coming is good news.

Why? Because, v2-3, He is the LORD of Isaiah 40, bringing “comfort” to the exiled people of God.

And He does it, v4-8, by joining us in our uncleanness and exile – entering into our baptismal waters, so that we might enter into His baptising Spirit. The Anointed One comes to draw us into His anointing.

As He joins us in our predicament, v9-11, the Father and Spirit do not abandon Him to our fate. The Spirit publicly refills Him, the Father publicly acknowledges Him. This is not only the triune identity declared in its clearest terms – it is the triune identity declared in salvation. The Son, as He enters into our exile, does so explicitly as the Father’s Son, filled with the Spirit.  The happy Trinity is passionately committed to our salvation: the Father sending His Son in the power of the Spirit.

And that Spirit, v12-13, drives Jesus into battle for us. Christ enters our wilderness and takes on our enemy as Champion – a true David to slay Goliath.

So here is the gospel, v14-15: the Kingdom has come because here is the King!  Good news people, rethink everything, trust that God really has shown up to save, because here is His Spirit-filled Son!

From this point onwards Jesus engages every power that enslaves us: sin, sickness, Satan, a chaotic world, death. In every encounter with these forces, Jesus does not simply prove Himself superior. He proves Himself Saviour.  All these powers dominate and destroy our lives. Jesus, the Spirit-filled Son, faces off against them in our name and on our behalf. If we belong to Him, His victory becomes our victory.

No wonder Mark opens by saying “Good News!”  These are glad tidings of great joy.  But only with trinity.

Without trinity, we simply have a Lord. And if we won’t explicitly understand Him as Son of the Father, filled with the Spirit, we will seek to establish His identity in other terms.  Without trinity, ‘divine identity’ become purely a matter of might.  And, without trinity, the whole baptism thing will be a bit of a mystery. In fact we’ll be hazy on most of the first 13 verses.  We’ll gain interest again right around verse 15: A call to repent!  But since Jesus is introduced in vague terms as ‘a Lord’ we will construe that to mean “bow the knee”… or something.

And as Jesus takes on the forces of darkness in Mark’s opening chapters we might consider these to be simply displays of power. We might just think that they establish “who’s boss”.  And, again, the point will not be to reassure us that the Christ has entered the fray as our Champion, it will be to drive home the point that Jesus really is big. And we ought to… um… “bow the knee.”

But with trinity we really will repent and believe. With trinity, we really will be overawed by our Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. With trinity, the Gospel really is good news.


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Rich Owen and I have updated the words to a great old hymn by WC Smith: “Earth was waiting, spent and restless.”  Rich did one version to the tune of Cwm Rhonda.  I’ve set it to the tune of “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly.”

World awaiting, fallen, fainting,
Certain hope with mingled fear;
Hard the dying, long the sighing,
‘Surely, Lord, the day is near;
Come Messiah, Earth’s Desire,
Hope of nations, generations,
Speed the hour when you appear,
Speed the hour when you appear!’

Dead in Adam, Israel barren,
where the Lord shall claim His own.
God’s elected, now rejected,
under curse and law they groan.
Sin abounding, hope confounding,
Wisdom darkened, hating, hardened,
In our pit He made His home,
In our pit He made His home.

Spirit sending, Christ descending,
To a virgin, meek came down.
To exchange a throne for manger,
Through the cross to claim His crown,
Sorrows sharing, burdens bearing,
Weakness shouldered, man enfolded,
Adam’s flesh became His gown.
Adam’s flesh became His gown.

Jacob’s story, stooping glory,
To retrace the path we trod,
Heaven’s Dearest, coming near us,
Bearing Man back home to God.
Loving Neighbour, Prince and Saviour,
Priest and Ransom, Brother, Champion,
Son of Man and Son of God,
Son of Man and Son of God.

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More Tweets

follow-jesusThough He disgusted many, Jesus was never disgusted. He’s not ashamed to be your Brother and to bring you to His Father #EnjoyYourDay

#Acts15 Legalism festers at home till the light of the gospel shines abroad. Life-giving mission always exposes life-sapping theology.

Why Christmas? 1 answer: So “He can deal gently with the ignorant & wayward since He Himself is beset with weakness.” (Heb5:2) #EnjoyYourDay

If we took our idea of The Judge from the book of Judges what wd we conclude? He’s our brother rising up to destroy our enemies & bring rest

God justifies the wicked who, without works, simply trust Jesus. Rom 4:5. Wickedness does not disbar, it qualifies you #EnjoyYourDay

He’s the Bread of life, born to be consumed. Why else would you put Him in a feeding trough? #EnjoyYourDay

#MayanChristmasSong Apocalypso Carol

Christians are 8th day people. We always live beyond the old world, beyond the old time-frame.

#christmasremakes Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Baubles

@glenscrivener Tinsel, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, surely? #christmasremakes

@RedDragonStar No I considered and rejected that option on account of it not containing baubles. #christmasremakes

#christmasremakes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Donkey

#christmasremakes Rebel Without A Claus — I *hate* myself for this one.

#christmasremakes Being John Melchior

#christmasremakes Indiana Jones and the Temple of Gluvine

#christmasremakes When Harry Met Santa

#christmasremakes Close Encounters of the Mulled Wine

#christmasremakes Apocalypse Sprout

Today ‘love’ is abt finding “one person in particular who will spare us any need for people in general” @alaindebotton

Jesus was not a tourist. He took all we are & then all that belongs to us: sin & wrath included. He’s ours: flesh *and* blood #EnjoyYourDay

God in a manger / Defenceless, enfleshed / Immanuel crying / And fighting for breath

God in a manger / Wriggling and raw / Stranded on wood / Enthroned on the straw.

God at Golgotha / Pierced in His flesh / Immanuel crying / And fighting for breath

God at Golgotha / Forsaken and lost / Stranded on wood / Enthroned on the cross

There’s no higher view of humanity than the Word become flesh. Have a very carnal Christmas ;)

What’s more dangerous, the gun or the myth that a gun-owner is part of the *solution* to violence? @NRA

.@NRA At the 1st Christmas, Jesus showed up 2 a genocide unarmed. He’s the place where the violence ends & His people are to follow

“The Life has appeared. We have seen it & proclaim 2u the eternal life which was with the Father.” 1John1 #EnjoyYourDay #HappyChristmas

Nice little update of the nativity from today’s Guardian: here

In the battle between Light and darkness, the Light has arrived. No contest! #EnjoyYourDay

“I’ve seen the misery of my people, heard their cries & am concerned 4 their suffering so I’ve come down 2 rescue them” Ex3 #EnjoyYourDay

ET’s last word to Drew Barrymore was law: “Be Good!” No wonder she went off the rails. #ET

The sevenfold promise of the LORD to His enslaved people: “I will bring u out from under the yoke, I will free u, I will redeem u…

…I will take u as my own people & I will be yr God. I will bring u2 the promised land, I will give it 2u as a possession.” Ex6 #EnjoyYourDay

The bible doesn’t say “Fall” it says Death, Curse, Exile. “Fall” is in grave danger of dualism. “East of Eden” tells a different story.

Just gorgeous: What Are You Doing New Years Eve? by Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-L…:

Turning over a new leaf? Ur 2000 years too late. A whole new world born from the virgin womb & virgin tomb: yours 4 free #EnjoyYourDay

So the answer to locating change in your one-off resolutions is to locate it in your ongoing resolutions? http://paultrippministries.org/new-years-resolutions … @PaulTripp

No need for you to make a beginning. Christ is “the Beginning” (Col 1:18). In Him all things are forever new. #EnjoyYourYear

No need to dwell on 2012. And nothing to prove in 2013. #EnjoyYourYear

It’s a New Year but @mike_reeves is banging the same old ‘Trinity’ drum http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/december/three-is-loveliest-number.html?paging=off …

It’s the one thing we must do now that we cannot do in eternity: Suffer bogus motivations towards mission

<< Witness to Christ is part and parcel of eternal life. Living it now is heavenly. It’s the shape of God, His Word, His Life, His people.

Rejoice Gok, Rejoice! For She has an hourglass figure and You have A Belt! #EveryGokWanShow

Because of resurrection, the worst thing is never the last thing.#EnjoyYourDay

Preachers tell me my no. 1 problem is self-rule but, gotta say, I experience it as slavery & self-sabotage, how bout u? LINK

‘This is the love of the cross… which does not find good but confers good upon the bad.’ Luther. The cross crucifies a theology of glory

Job 19: Not a Replacer, a Redeemer. Not in the clouds, on earth. Not as spirit, in my flesh: “I will see Him.” #EnjoyYourDay

Saved from slavery, enduring a wilderness time of trial, headed for the land of promise. @danhames nails it HERE

Here’s a tip guaranteed to add 30% to any metric of success… Get the figure from An Evangelist

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Happy Friday

A good effort, but I still think Jon Gomm would get more out of the instrument.

And a fine parody here:

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burning bushI’ve had many discussions under the title of “Christ in the Old Testament.”  But perhaps the issues would be seen more clearly if we labelled the debate: “God in the Old Testament.”

And actually, the fact that those two titles sound quite different tells you everything you need to know about the dire Christlessness of modern God-talk.

We (and I include myself here in my knee-jerk western deism) imagine that there’s a bed-rock deity called “God” who is obviously the God spoken of in Genesis.  And then we discuss whether the Patriarchs also knew this shadowy figure called Messiah.  And we debate how ‘Messianic’ certain discrete verses are, and to what degree the author was aware, and to what degree the first audience was cognisant of specific promises and appearances, etc, etc.  But we almost never challenge that view of “God” which we all signed off on in the beginning!

Thus from the outset God is defined as – essentially – ‘the God of monotheism’ (broadly conceived) and Christ is defined as a nuance to a more foundational divine reality.  Then we spend all our time debating how clear the nuance was!

But what if… from the beginning, Elohim was not the god of Aristotle!  It’s a shocking thought I know, but let’s run with it.  What if… He makes all things by His Spirit and Word and says “Let us”?  And what if this is not something that needs to be kept in check by a hermeneutic that expects only an omnibeing?  And what if Yahweh Elohim stoops down and breathes into Adam’s nostrils and what if, under the name “Voice of the LORD”, He walks in the garden in the cool of the day and encounters the couple as a divine Person.  And what if Adam and Eve weren’t blind/idiots/default-unitarians?

How much clearer Adam and Eve saw God than us!  Without the “benefit” of our western theistic presuppositions, they see the “very God from very God.”  They don’t think in that exact language, but they certainly don’t think in unitarian categories either.  They think of Elohim who creates through His Word and Spirit.  They think of Yahweh Elohim – the hands-on God – who breathes life into man.  They think of ‘the Voice of the LORD’ who walks in the garden with them.  And in Genesis 4:1 they think they have begotten the LORD-Man at the first attempt (the timing was wrong, but the hope was not, cf 1 Pet 1:10).

They simply didn’t have a monadic sub-structure to their doctrine of God.  They were not proto-Arians, labouring under a philosophical strait-jacket.  To imagine that the Divine Messiah was something extra to their simple belief in “God” fails spectacularly to get at true Old Testament faith.  But it does reveal some disturbing assumptions about who we think “God” is.

Who is this “God” for whom His Word/Messenger/Messiah is an addendum?  Why on earth would we begin the Scriptures with that “God”?  And if the primary truths about God are unitarian, is our own faith primarily unitarian, just with a Jesus nuance?

The question is deeper than “Christ in the Old Testament.”  It’s deeper even than “God in the Old Testament.”  It’s the question of God.  Which explains why the issue can get quite heated at times.  But also why it’s so crucial.

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Blogging Help Please

Blogging-Help_The-Blog-MavenSo I have this blog. And I’m aware it’s a bit ugly.

I also have The King’s English.

And now 321.

I now have a self-hosted Christ the Truth blog here and I’ve just tried to import everything from here to there.  But here are some problems:

All the internal links are no longer ‘internal’ in that they point to this blog and not that one.

None of the categories and tags from 2012 seem to have transferred.

None of the youtube videos are embedding properly (the embed code here is and there it’s [media url= ]

Even if I fix all these things, is it worth self-hosting? It’s an expense every year.  Is it possible/desirable to better integrate my blogs – maybe into one site??  What are the benefits/costs to switching?

And how have I gotten through 5 years of blogging without knowing the first thing about it??




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