Tuesdays with Torrance: The Centrality of the Trinity

From The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996):

While the Lord Jesus Christ constitutes the pivotal centre of our knowledge of God, God’s distinctive self-revelation as Holy Trinity, One Being, Three Persons, creates the overall framework within which all Christian theology is to be formulated. Understandably, therefore, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity has been called the innermost heart of Christian faith and worship, the central dogma of classical theology, the fundamental grammar of our knowledge of God. It belongs to the Gospel of God’s saving and redeeming love in Jesus Christ who died for us and rose again and has given us the Holy Spirit who has shed the love of God abroad in our hearts. The doctrine of the Trinity enshrines the essentially Christian conception of God: it constitutes the ultimate evangelical expression of the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ who though he was rich for our sakes became poor that we through his poverty might become rich, of the Love of God who did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all, for it is in that personal sacrifice of the Father to which everything in the Gospel goes back, and of the Communion of the Holy Spirit through whom and in whom we are made to participate in the eternal Communion of the Father and the Son and are united with one another in the redeemed life of the people of God. Through Christ and in the Spirit God has communicated himself to us in such a wonderful way that we may really know him and have communion with him in his inner life as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (p. 2)

When I first encountered this paragraph I meditated on the first sentence since it seemed counterintuitive to me at the time.  I wondered how it was that there could be a “pivotal center” to our knowledge of God that didn’t involve all three Persons if God is Trinity.  But in wondering this I realized that the Lord Jesus Christ as the pivotal center is precisely what involves all three Persons!  Jesus is the visible Person of the Trinity; the Incarnation ensured this.  As such he reveals the Father (see John 14) but he doesn’t stop with revealing the Father he continues in dispensing the Spirit (Matt. 3:11; John 20:22).  So often we think of revelation in terms of Scripture but the Incarnation of the eternal Son is by far God’s greatest means of self-revelation.  The relational nature of the Trinity causes us to consider all three Persons whenever presented with any one in particular.  In seeing the Son we see the Father; in receiving the Son we receive the Spirit.  It was the revelation of the Son that most clearly revealed the Father and Spirit.


7 thoughts on “Tuesdays with Torrance: The Centrality of the Trinity

  1. I am considering a blog commenting on the seemingly popularity of the notion of religious pluralism (polytheism). Yes, God is Three in One, but how does that help us to understand God’s unity in a day in age where “diversity” is more fashionable than unity?

  2. Good stuff from Torrance.

    Refreshing to read actually, I’ve been trying to read atheist blogs lately just because I read most of the best atheist books available. Anyhow, reading the Torrance quote was wonderful because it talked about the Trinity as a doctrine that makes sense. (A sermon I preached Trinity Sunday made the same point)

    I always forget that all it would take is for some of these folks to just try to understand Christianity before calling it stupid to make me less angry. Especially some of these guys with degrees in New Testament that frequently mis-exegete the bible to make the authors sound stupid…anyhow, helpful post. I think from now on I will only read atheist philosophy in peer-reviewed journal articles.

  3. Rod: You’re going to start a blog dedicated to that subject alone? That would be pretty cool. Let me know if/when you get that going.

    Geoff: I don’t know how you can stand to even read the scholarly atheists. They all bug me. And I would have liked to have heard your Trinity Sunday sermon. In the paper I wrote for the Trinity Blogging Summit I noted how the doctrine of the Trinity should be something that makes sense. The way we talk about God is different than God in Godself. He might be incomprehensible but we can at least understand everything that he’s chosen to reveal.

  4. Well, maybe a blog series first. I have to think about my academic career before starting an anti-process theology blog. :) Whoops

    I think itll be a blog series; ill keep you updated.

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