The Case for Trinitarian a Perspective

A proper theology of God molds our Christian worldview. In the same respect, a Trinitarian perspective informs our view of ontology and teleology. Theology begins in God. Therefore, theology must consider the Trinity as its beginning. Over emphasis on a single Person of the Trinity produces lopsided view in risk of tritheism (where each Person is a different God) or modalism (where God is one but expressed in three different modes). A suitable view urges us to consider the Trinity as a relationship of the three Persons in perfect communion enveloped in the term perichoresis. God is the relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Relationality then defines personhood as a “who” rather than a “what”. It is out of this eternal Trinitarian communion that creation, salvation and the renewal of all things comes to the fore.

Lopsided Trinitarian views diminish our understanding of the Trinity and produces a skewed theology of God. An over-emphasis on the Father tends to lead to patriarchism and monarchicalism. Such view presents God solely as the Almighty Father who rules over the created order as subordinate servants. God is seen as impassible and aristocratic. This view is predominantly found in fundamentalist circles that subscribe to a classical theistic view of God. At its conclusion, this androcentric approach confines power and influence to male figure, which in turn produces sexism and justifies the existence of superior classes within a society.

On the other hand, a dominant emphasis on the Son highlights horizontality without verticality. God is incarnate in Jesus and becomes “like” us. He is a big brother, a comrade who identifies with our struggle. This view is dominant in some contextual theologies, e.g. Feminist and Liberation Theologies. It tends to reject classical interpretations of God. It uses a hermeneutics based on social events and tends to be experimental and reactionary, a “struggle” to which Christ the Liberator speaks clearly. The dismantling of oppressive structures becomes the utopic goal, often at the cost of installing new overbearing systems.

Moreover, overemphasis on the Holy Spirit often leads to a private, subjective spirituality in detriment of the communal ecclesiastical reality. Individual needs for blessing and inner peace are the drive for the pursuit of God. This perspective is most commonly found in charismatic/Pentecostal circles. Whereas other lopsided perspectives focus on verticality and horizontality, a religion of the Holy Spirit alone focuses inwardly. It accommodates behavioral traits produced by the individualist-consumerist narrative and lends itself to being pragmatic, experiential and hedonistic. At its climax, personal satisfaction and empowerment become the goal under the banner of the Holy Spirit’s work.

God-World Relationship through Trinitarian Hospitality in Genesis 1

Scripture as a whole tells the story of the relationship between God and the world. At its very onset, the account of creation offers important clues into Trinitarian hospitality as a relational paradigm between God and the created order. Genesis 1 begins by laying out the sequential order of God’s creative undertaking. It begins with the separation of light from darkness on the first day (Gn 1:3), and ends with the day of rest on the seventh (Gn 2:2). Before anything came into being, the initial setting of the world was formless, without order or meaning (Gn 1:2). It is in this context that creation begins to take place.

In the beginning, God… before creation comes to existence, God already was. The “who” existed before the “what” began to happen. The initial chaos reveals a transcendent God who is Elohim. Elohim is supra-natural, mighty to “speak” (Gn 1:3) and bring order into chaos by the power of God’s word. Not only does Elohim represent transcendence, but also the Spirit of God is shown to be sovereign by hovering over the waters (Gn 1:2). The Spirit is super-natural, enveloping creation. God therefore transcends the current reality but is close enough to be active in its confines. Creation beings in God. In this setting, the Spirit appears as a sign of hope, the prospect of the new harmonious reality of creation that is to take place. Through the Spirit, God “immanates” the created order through actions of divine sovereignty and will. This self-revelation follows the biblical pattern of divine action as seen throughout Scripture. The Spirit is at work when the God’s Word is uttered.

Additionally, God is self-revealed as a plurality of Persons. God, the Spirit and the Word move in synchrony in giving life to creation. Through the Gospels, we understand this to be the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The account of creation reveals God’s-self as a community of the Three Persons of the deity who are harmoniously interacting with each other on the basis of shared life. Order is established in the midst of chaos and nothingness as a reflection of the perfect Trinitarian communion. Creation reveals the giving of life as an act of love where equal communion and harmonious existence are all outputs of God’s nature and power. God gives, therefore God loves. It is out of God’s own mutual fellowship that order takes place. The narrative of creation is intentional in showing order by maintaining a sequential progress marked by seven stanzas. Light and darkness are separated, creating night and day, the basis for time and seasons (Gn 1:3).

God embeds God’s revelation within creation history and later in the New Creation history the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. Creation organizes chaos. Not in the sense of fixed natural laws, but in setting forth an environment where life sustained by the Spirit is allowed to thrive. Reflective of the perichoretic nature, God looks at God’s-self again when creating mankind as the last beings of creation. “In our image and likeness” (Gn 1:26) implies that mankind would be essentially different from all of creation before it. The Imago Dei then resembles the divine possibility for particularity and reciprocity. Humanity was to be welcomed into the perichoretic communion and granted freedom (as power) to relate and communicate with the Trinity. God formed man out of the dust but also breathed life into his nostrils (Gn 2:7). Humanity was to reflect its communal Creator whilst arising out of creation itself. Humanity is set as particular among creation, yet reciprocal in relation to God, itself and the rest of nature. God gives life and welcomes men and women into the divine community as an act of love.

Three Consequences of Trinitarian Hospitality

The God-world relationship in the account of creation expresses Trinitarian hospitality in the following ways. First, in setting chaos into order through sovereign acts of divine will, God shows that harmonious existence is an intrinsic part of the Trinitarian community. With the statement “and God saw that it was good”, the harmonious existence of all living beings is repeatedly shown to be the goal of God’s creation (Gn 1: 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 25, 31). Harmony is not defined by a set of fixed natural laws, but as a dynamic and adaptable ecosystem that preserves the flourishing of life.

Secondly, God creates mankind as different from all of creation. A special worth is given to mankind for being created in God’s “image and likeness.” Although scholars disagree on the particulars of the Imago Dei, a common ground is that Imago Dei speaks of inherent human worth and equality. Trinitarian mutuality and dependency is communicated to the human community. Egalitarianism is therefore grounded in the nature of God’s-self and not on any other basis of interpretation. Imago Dei informs us that we are reciprocating selves, who flourish and develop in communion with God and each other.

Finally, by giving life God shows love and welcomes mankind into the Trinitarian community. Hospitality is the act of preparing an environment to nurture relationship. God plants a garden in Eden and welcomes humanity into it (Gn 2:8). Nonetheless, humanity was not only to share in God’s life-giving love, but also in God’s life-maintaining purpose (Gn 2:15). The Trinity defines the difference between theology and totemism. The Trinitarian perspective projects God’s particularity and reciprocity in humanity, providing the basis through which Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equally and dynamically involved in unveiling salvation history among the created order. A community of reciprocity is the ethos of creation. Moreover, God bestows authority over men and women equally to partake in a common mission whereby the preservation of life becomes the telos of creation. Thus, a Trinitarian reading of creation implies that hospitality must ultimately produce a new reality of equality through shared life and purpose.