Drinking Deeply

Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 4:16 PM

Lord's Day 8

Q. How are these articles divided?
A. Into three parts: The first concerns God the Father and our creation; the second, God the Son and our redemption; and the third, God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.

Q. Since there is only one divine Being, why do you speak of three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
A. Because that is how God is revealed in God's own Word; these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006 at 2:14 AM

In the words of a friend

oof.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006 at 3:36 PM

Trinity post 5

Ok, so I'm in way over my head with the philosophical stuff. I don't know what I would do if someone came in and identified George Bush's gender wrong but got a lot of other things right. In a similar fashion, if someone said God was not Triune but understood how He worked in salvation, in incarnation, in history, and so on, I would have no idea what was going on. I am content to leave things like that up to the elders of his or her church and God to decide.

As to the essentials question, this is the best I could think of. It is noticably weaker than the original position staked out, but it is as far as Scripture goes, and as far as I'm willing to go. Kudos to jefe for challenging this. Provided without a lot of explanation, mostly because I'm lazy.
Jesus came in the flesh

1 John 4
2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
Jesus is God

John 8:24

24I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins."

The Gospel:

Gal. 1
8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Now I don't think there is a distinction drawn between "preach" and "believe" here, as Paul is pointing out that the gospel falsely preached is that which does not save in the context.

As to what the gospel is, John Piper does an excellent job surveying the basics of it in his book God is the Gospel, but an examination of 1 Cor. 15:1-4 provides a good summary:
1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
As to A who affirms justification by faith alone, but denies that Jesus is God, I would say that the passage from John speaks to that. I don't know what I would do with someone who denied a different aspect of the Trinity though (like the (lack of) distinction between persons in modalism for example)

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at 3:22 PM

Need a verse!

Hey, I've been thinking...

someone mentioned that they were trying to figure out what it meant to "give something up to God." I realized I had no idea where that concept comes from. Anyone got a verse?

Or maybe it comes from the idea of an "offering" and "sacrifice"?

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Monday, April 24, 2006 at 11:59 PM

Trinity post 4

jefe writes:
I need to point out one more thing: the position you've staked, as I've understood it, is very strong. You're saying that an anti-trinitarian can't even talk meaningfully about God. I think I've given a good argument against this position, but even if you don't buy that, you've got to ask, why would we think such a strong claim is true? Is there a compelling argument? Is there support for it in scripture?
Is a non-denial of the Trinity essential to salvation? It's assumed in all creeds and confessions. Prove it from Scripture.

This is the question here. comments welcome.

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at 10:19 AM

Lord's Day 7

It's been a while.

Q. Will all people then be saved through Christ just as they were lost through Adam?
A. No. Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his blessings.

Q. What is true faith?
A. It is not only a certain knowledge by which I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in the Word, but also a wholehearted trust which the Holy Spirit creates in me through the gospel, that, not only to others, but to me also God has given the forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation, out of sheer grace, solely for the sake of Christ's saving work.

Q. What then must a Christian believe?
A. All that is promised us in the gospel, a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universally acknowledged Christian faith.

Q. What are these articles?
A. I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006 at 2:35 PM

From a blog I read

Arminian: God is willing but unable to save everyone.

Calvinist: God is able but unwilling to save everyone.

comments? I would say that represents my belief fairly accurately.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006 at 11:39 PM

Simply thankful

It's interesting how God uses little tiny things to come together for something that blesses me tremendously. I guess I wanted to share one today.

I originally wasn't going to go to the church homecoming/reunion. I hadn't actually left, there was nothing to come back to, and there wasn't anyone I knew that was coming back. All the people I knew were already there on Sundays. But when a friend called and asked if was arraging rides, since she was the only one thus far, I figured I might as well go, if just to keep company. So I called the few other people I knew were going up, figured out who was driving where/when and so on. Called by my friend. Turns out that she doesn't actually want to go anymore, but since I had already arranged everything, I decided to go anyways.

Got there, got to know a number of people. The "founding fathers" of the ministries that I was now involved with. Got a chance to see just how old KCPC actually was. Everyone brought their wives and children, some of them had actually married people within KCPC! Cool beans. But it was a little bit weird, like what was I supposed to talk about with people who were twice my age? Who had gone through KCPC before I got out of grade school? But it was good. Challeged me to introduce myself, to talk to people, to ask questions of people, to get to know what lay ahead. Somewhat of an atypical typical day I guess. Like nothing extraordinary.

But what made it awesome, and what prompted this blogpost, was the car ride back. During the car ride, I got a chance to get to know someone that I already knew, someone who was still actually involved with KCPC and someone whom I had seen around all the time and known and talked to, but just not at a deeper level. Through the discussion, I just could not stop thinking, "wow, I can't believe I never talked to this person earlier" along with "praise God!" I really felt like I found another brother, where before we were just passing aquaintances/friends.

So praise the Lord. I must confess I was quiet the surprised at how God used the circumstances (since all arrows pointed to an "eh" experience). But I am so thankful now that I went, that 30 minute car ride made quite the difference.

PTL.

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Friday, April 21, 2006 at 11:33 AM

Maybe I should just stop posting...

since other people say it better.

Stumbled upon this excerpt in Al Mohler's blog. This is what I'm trying to say (though it's part of a much bigger point, read his whole blog). It's said in the context of the importance of a pastor to be theological. Al Mohler highlights one aspect: Knowing the essentials.
The pastor's concentration is a necessary theological discipline. Thus, the pastor must develop the ability to isolate what is most important in terms of theological gravity from that which is less important.

I call this the process of theological triage. As anyone who visits a hospital emergency room is aware, a triage nurse is customarily in place in order to make a first-stage evaluation of which patients are most in need of care. A patient with a gunshot wound is moved ahead of a sprained ankle in terms of priority. This makes medical sense, and to misconstrue this sense of priority would amount to medical malpractice.

In a similar manner, the pastor must learn to discern different levels of theological importance. First-order doctrines are those that are fundamental and essential to the Christian faith. The pastor's theological instincts should seize upon any compromise on doctrines such as the full deity and humanity of Christ, the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of atonement, and essentials such as justification by faith alone. Where such doctrines are compromised, the Christian faith falls. When a pastor hears an assertion that Christ's bodily resurrection from the dead is not a necessary doctrine, he must respond with a theological instinct that is based in the fact that such a denial is tantamount to a rejection of the Gospel itself.

Second-order doctrines are those which are essential to church life and necessary for the ordering of the local church, but which, in themselves, do not define the Gospel. That is to say, one may detect an error in a doctrine at this level and still acknowledge that the person in error remains a believing Christian. Nevertheless, such doctrines are directly related to how the church is organized and its ministry is fulfilled. Doctrines found at this level include those most closely related to ecclesiology and the architecture of theological systems. Calvinists and Arminians may disagree concerning a number of vital and urgently important doctrines--or, at the very least, the best way to understand and express these doctrines. Yet, both can acknowledge each other as genuine Christians. At the same time, these differences can become so acute that it is difficult to function together in the local congregation over such an expansive theological difference.

Third-order doctrines are those which may be the ground for fruitful theological discussion and debate, but which do not threaten the fellowship of the local congregation or the denomination. Christians who agree on an entire range of theological issues and doctrines may disagree over matters related to the timing and sequence of events related to Christ's return. Yet, such ecclesiastical debates, while understood to be deeply important because of their biblical nature and connection to the Gospel, do not constitute a ground for separation among believing Christians.

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at 8:59 AM

Trying to figure out what I meant...

Someone once told me the key to winning the debate is to define the terms in my favor. I think I'm going to do that now.

Let me say at the outset that Eric (and jefe) are right when they defended a non-necessity of a knowledge of the Trinity for salvation. Thinking it through, especially with the classical example of Abraham, that seems well nigh indefensible.

But.

What I was trying to say, and I think I got side tracked into trying to defend too much, was that the doctrine of the Trinity is a far cry from something like "esteeming the Sabbath rather than the Lord's Day."

I previously gave the example that no one can affirm "Scripture proves A" and "I reject A" without also explicitly rejecting Christianity. But we can have the case "I believe Scripture proves B" so therefore "I reject A and affirm B" when in fact Scripture proves A. For many doctrines, in spite of an incomplete/incorrect knowledge of that specific doctrine, we all would still welcome them as a brother in Christ with open arms.

Yet, I would say that there are a few doctrines with which we cannot do that. That even if someone is convinced that Scripture proves B instead of A, we cannot accept him as a brother in Christ. The Trinity being included in this is what I originally had set off to support, and probably was led astray. My apologies.

Eric said "* I would distinguish between expressing no certain opinion on the Trinity, or never adverting to the possibility of a Trinity, from actual denial of the Trinity. I think I can believe in the Trinity and still believe in the god Abraham prayed to, since so far as I know Abraham never even adverted to the possibility that his god might be triune. The same is not true of my beliefs and, say, a Jewish friend who denies that his god is triune."

I am affirming the same thing, except replacing "Jewish" with "person who claims to be Christian."

(one side note: Maybe what's required is that we be able to distinguish God from gods?)

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006 at 11:42 PM

Trinity Post 3

jefe writes:
(4)
returning to mickey's post, and taking "essential doctrine" to mean the things that you gotta believe--"what must we believe to be saved?" (not that we're saved by virtue of having the right beliefs, i'd say, but rather, the way we're saved is through god's giving us the right faith.):

now, i could be off base here, but i only know of a couple of propositional statements that scriptural texts say are essential in that way.

1. (a) god exists and (b) he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11.6)

2. god raised jesus from the dead (Romans 10.9)

(you might also want to add "jesus is lord" to that, from the last passage--but i think (and please feel free to correct me) that that's not really a propositional belief: it's more like a statement of allegiance--as the passage goes on, it's a matter of trusting jesus. and that's important--because while our faith does have propositional content, that content is not the core of our faith.)

now that's a darn short list. there may be things i missed--but i really don't think we should be striving to make it longer. remember jesus' words (Luke 11.46): "woe to you who load people down with burdens".
Full agreement on the earlier point. God saves us via right beliefs, rather than once we have right beliefs we are saved.

Maybe we're just talking over words (which seems to happen for me a lot... my apologies)

Scripture is clear that we are to separate ourselves from false teachers (and from hypocritical liars, demonstrating it is possible to have right "doctrine" but wrong "action"). It is with regards to seeking to obey this as best we are able that we want to identify what doctrines are "essential" and what are not. And yes, the terminology is optional. If someone rejected "faith alone" as James 2 contradicts it, but affirmed that one is saved not by a mixture of works and faith, but simply by faith placed in Christ, there would be no issue, though I would say "faith alone" is a good summary.

Similarly if someone rejected "Trinity" simply because the word wasn't in the Bible (which, to me, seems like a plausible reason for rejecting it) but affirmed that God was three in person, one in essence, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all God and not identical with one another, sharing differing roles in the process of life, sanctification, justification, prayer, and so on, who am I to quibble?

yet I would say that the Trinity belongs in the list of essentials, simply because without a passable understanding of the Trinity, one's whole conception of God is messed up, maybe to the point where one cannot properly understand justification by faith, prayer, salvation, sanctification, and so on.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006 at 6:38 PM

Trinity Question 2

jefe writes:
(2)"What kind of God is He? We declare Trinity."

remember, the issue under discussion is not "is trinitarianism true about God?" lots of things are true about god that certainly aren't "essential doctrine". for instance, does god immanently occupy space, or is he "outside of space" (i.e. non-spatial)? you'd have a hard time arguing that having the wrong belief on that count is damnable.
This is true. There are a lot of things that are true but not essential. (Though, from the first post, I would argue that all things, once demonstrated from Scripture as true, are then essential as denying them would be denying Scripture, which is denying an essential).

However, the doctrine of the Trinity is different in a key consideration, namely that the understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity enables us to not only understand a fact of knowledge about God (which is important in itself), but it makes a difference in also (among other things): How we relate to one another (understanding submission does not imply inferiority), how we understand God doing His Work (creation, redemption, consummation), a distinguishing factor of Christianity, how we understand salvation (Father judges, Son pays, Spirit empowers), how we are to worship, how we are to pray, how we are to understand our sanctification, how we are to be unified as seperate members of a whole. There is a great deal more that the Trinity directly or indirectly impacts.

What makes it essential in the second sense? Here's two guesses:

1) The doctrine of the Trinity describes and orders the very God that we are to pray to, to place our faith upon, to worship, and so on. To deny the Trinity entails a misunderstanding (in a great sense) of the very God we claim to worship. We cannot put our faith in God if we think God is a table, or not omnipotent, or so on.

2) The doctrine of the Trinity is necessary for hypostatic union: the doctrine that states that Jesus is both fully man and fully God, two distinct natures. Without hypostatic union we cannot understand Christ to have paid the full price for the sins of many (since if he were only man, he could not pay for more than himself), or we cannot understand Christ to be a representative (Christ must be a man to pay for man's sins).

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Monday, April 17, 2006 at 5:50 PM

Trinity question 1

While I'm sure Theocentric is more than capable of answering the questions himself, I promised to respond, albeit a bit briefer than I expected:

Here's part 1) jefe writes:
(1)
theocentric writes:
"If you deny the Trinity, you deny the clear teachings of Scripture. ...the regenerate heart loves the word of God."
let's say we grant both of those points (i'm not so sure, but let's say). does it really follow that trinitarianism is essential to being "saved"?

i don't think that's a valid argument. for instance, the scriptures say that Jehu the son of Jehosaphat conspired against Joram (2 Kings 9:14). the bible's much more explicit on this than any of the claims about the trinity. but i don't think anybody would say this proposition is essential to christian belief. if an ignorant person like me got in an argument with you, saying, "Jehu never conspired against Joram", would you really think that put my savedness into question?
How I see it:

Belief (and action in accordance to such a belief) in the authority of the Word of God is necessary for salvation. One cannot, in view of Scriptural teachings on its own authority, reject Scripture explicitly.

Explicit rejection and denial of a clear teaching of the Word of God entails a rejection of the authority of the Word of God.

Thus I would say, yes, if you're rejecting the prepositional statement "Jehu never conspired against Joram" in spite of clear Biblical witness (setting aside those issues of textual criticism and the like), I would say you were denying the authority of God in His Word, and thus would put my fellowship with you at stake. Now of course only God knows who is His and who is not, it may be that one day he will bring you to an acceptance of His Word, so I cannot make a judgment call as to if you are one of the elect or not, but I certainly can act as if you were not a member of the church, as I would be commanded to.

The Trinity may not be as clear as a sentence like that, but it is very clear all over the rest of Scripture, in the OT and the NT (though the NT is a lot more explicit).

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Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 1:53 PM

At the Tomb

Here's the question of the month. Answer, with Scriptual support:

Why did Jesus Christ rise from the dead?

Here's one to get you started:

Jesus Christ rose from the dead to demonstrate the truth and reality of His death on the cross being a sacrifice for our sins.

1 Cor. 15) 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 10:03 PM

At the Cross

It’s Easter weekend (if that’s a term I can use), and I had to post on something else prior to addressing the Trinity. And that something else has to be on the thing that’s on everyone’s minds right now. It will be preached on on Sunday, and ideally, it should be touched upon every week.

But this Sunday is special in a sense. We will gather together in a special remembrance of our Saviors resurrection. We like to talk about the resurrection, but before we get there, we have to talk about the death.

Why did Jesus die? Why did the God, creator, and sustainer of the universe come in the form of flesh in order to suffer and die?

John Piper writes an excellent book entitled Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. It was formerly called “The Passion of Jesus Christ.”

I want to look at one: Jesus died to suffer the condemnation we deserve, thereby setting us free and reconciling us with God.

Romans 8

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
The beauty of Christ’s death is many-fold. There is a lot we could talk about. This passage talks about a few, but they all relate to one:

v. 3) God has … condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.

Remember who God is? God is righteous and Holy. He does not permit sin in His presence. Our Lord is a consuming fire. Yes, God is also love. I’ll get to that in a moment. But we must understand that God’s love does not contradict His wrath. If this isn’t entirely clear, Theocentric posted an excellent post on the wrath of God earlier. Go and read it now and come back to this.

So God is holy. God is also just. God must act in accordance to His character, which is the very definition of justice. Sins against God must be punished. They must be punished with blood and death. John Piper said it best: Satan doesn’t damn people. God damns people. Our sins deserve damnation. The law deserves damnation. We deserve death.

But Paul in Romans 8 busts out with this amazing claim: 1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Why? How is there no condemnation? Because of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was our sacrifice. You remember in the Old Testament there were always these many many sacrifices for almost everything? Because God demands blood for sins. But God has done what the law could not do. What couldn’t the law do? The law could not fulfill it’s own requirements. It could only lay out those requirements. It could not punish. It could not set free.

(But) God has done what the law could not do. God has set us free. He has condemned sin in the flesh. Fulfilling the righteous requirements of Himself. This is where the love of God is so sweetly demonstrated. Sin condemned in the flesh. Righteous God demonstrates His righteousness. Loving God demonstrates His love.

Never forget this. This is the crux of Christianity. We, sinful man, deserved wrath. God, righteous God, punished our sin. Upon His Son. And thereby set us free from the condemnation and bondage of sin, and free (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to pursue righteousness.

Yes, we will stumble. We will fall. But, by the grace of God, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Happy Easter

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Friday, April 14, 2006 at 8:50 AM

A question I need to get to:

jefe posted in a comment earlier. It's being posted so my readers can 1) read and respond and 2) keep me accountabile to my promise to respond to it:
(1)
theocentric writes:
"If you deny the Trinity, you deny the clear teachings of Scripture. ...the regenerate heart loves the word of God."
let's say we grant both of those points (i'm not so sure, but let's say). does it really follow that trinitarianism is essential to being "saved"?

i don't think that's a valid argument. for instance, the scriptures say that Jehu the son of Jehosaphat conspired against Joram (2 Kings 9.14). the bible's much more explicit on this than any of the claims about the trinity. but i don't think anybody would say this proposition is essential to christian belief. if an ignorant person like me got in an argument with you, saying, "Jehu never conspired against Joram", would you really think that put my savedness into question?

(2)
"What kind of God is He? We declare Trinity."
remember, the issue under discussion is not "is trinitarianism true about God?" lots of things are true about god that certainly aren't "essential doctrine". for instance, does god immanently occupy space, or is he "outside of space" (i.e. non-spatial)? you'd have a hard time arguing that having the wrong belief on that count is damnable.

(3)
any argument (and there are many) to the effect that some kind of trinitarianism is the most consistent and reasonable position kind of misses this point--unless we say that salvation hinges on our rational virtues. i'm with mickey in saying that runs deeply against the good news of grace.

(4)
returning to mickey's post, and taking "essential doctrine" to mean the things that you gotta believe--"what must we believe to be saved?" (not that we're saved by virtue of having the right beliefs, i'd say, but rather, the way we're saved is through god's giving us the right faith.):

now, i could be off base here, but i only know of a couple of propositional statements that scriptural texts say are essential in that way.

1. (a) god exists and (b) he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11.6)

2. god raised jesus from the dead (Romans 10.9)

(you might also want to add "jesus is lord" to that, from the last passage--but i think (and please feel free to correct me) that that's not really a propositional belief: it's more like a statement of allegiance--as the passage goes on, it's a matter of trusting jesus. and that's important--because while our faith does have propositional content, that content is not the core of our faith.)

now that's a darn short list. there may be things i missed--but i really don't think we should be striving to make it longer. remember jesus' words (Luke 11.46): "woe to you who load people down with burdens".

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Thursday, April 13, 2006 at 12:41 AM

Asian American Church

So I promised I'd post this, sorry for the delay. Been a bit busy.

This post will contain why I am opposed to the idea of an Asian American Church.

First off, I need to define what exactly I mean by Asian American. Now, since this definition is one that I am working with, it may be a little bit imprecise, and it also may not be what other people are thinking when they think of an “Asian American Church.” Please bear with me, correcting me and asking for clarifications if necessary.

What I don’t mean when I say “Asian American” is I don’t mean a congregation that has its primary worship in Chinese, or a congregation that has its primary worship in Korean, or something like that. I believe there is a biblical warrant for having churches for this purpose, as one of the commands for our preacher is to speak so that the congregation can understand. If we’re preaching in a different language this surely cannot be done.

I also don’t mean all those churches that are, forced by the population living nearby, primarily Asian American.

What I do mean by an “Asian American” Church is a church in which the preaching is done primarily in English, the population of the area is fairly diverse, but the congregation is almost completely second generation or first generation Asian American, and the idea of being “Asian American” is part of the purpose of the specific church. I would include within this list those churches that explicitly have the label “Asian-American” within their titles. They maintain this identity implicitly or explicitly as “Asian American” Christians.

This is what I mean by Asian American Churches.

I tried my hardest to think of a biblical reason why someone would want to have an Asian American Church, and the only thing I could come up with was Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 9 in saying:
19For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
But this to me seems like an incredibly weak argument for Asian American Churches for one big reason. Paul here is talking about laying aside his rights as a Christian. He is willingly setting aside and submitting himself to something that he, as a Christian, is free to refrain from. In all honesty, I do not see this as a rationale for people to have Asian American Churches, especially if someone was Asian American him/herself. Maybe it’s possible for someone to use this mentality, I don’t know.

Thus I conclude that, barring this one exception, Asian American Churches are extra-biblical at best.

At worst however, it becomes unbiblical. Using the exact same passage as our standard, do we see Asian American churches reaching out, laying aside their identities as Asian Americans in order to reach out to those who may not share the same culture but may share the same Father? Are they willing to make sacrifices, living in a place foreign to their culture in order that all may be won to the Gospel? Or isn’t the Asian American Church in direct contradiction to this concept? Desiring to build an oasis around them in order to preserve status quo, in order to preserve a culture that other people do not understand, and that Jesus never says to bring with us when we come to the cross. Don’t we lay aside our rights as citizens of this culture for the far greater right of becoming heirs of the Kingdom of God? Why do we maintain an extra-biblical desire to hang onto our culture? Might this become an idol? Is it an idol?

Yes, it is awkward to not share things in common with those who may not be Asian American. It is weird to call the father of one of my friends by their first names. But how much greater is it, how much more awesome can it be, when I am able to pray with and embrace that same person as a brother instead of as someone who is twice removed from my circle of friends, once as a parent and once as a different culture.

Does not the Gospel of Jesus reconcile races and nationalities?

No, I do not apply this completely. I am, presently a member of a fellowship that is sponsored by Korean Central Presbyterian Church. I am also, at home, a member of a church entitled Chinese Christian Mandarin Church. I am there because that is where I’ve been placed, and I see my gifts being utilized, stretched, and grown there. But I do see hope. One of my pastors mentioned that he has brought up the possibility of changing our name and removing the Korean. It saddened me that this was tabled and ignored almost immediately, but I am grateful that it is a question in someone else’s mind at least.

May God be glorified as He will be, when every tongue, nation, and nationality bends its knee to Him, worshipping the Lamb of God, as One Body, in One Voice, proclaiming One Lord and Savior of all.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006 at 1:08 AM

Genesis 15:6

A brief paragraph contrasting James and Paul for my religious studies class on Luther (hooray for being able to work on my (fake) reformed theology minor at Stanford University! Praise the Lord!) Only allowed 250 words, I went over by a hundred. But I can't do James 2 justice within the word count. So here we go:

A contrast of James and Paul's treatments of Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4, Galatians 3, and James 2.

Genesis 15:6
"And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness."
In Romans 4, Paul uses Genesis 15:6 in the context of being justified by works. He refutes the belief of being justified (counted righteous) by works (merit) with the idea of being justified (counted righteous) by faith alone. Paul puts the emphasis completely upon faith, as he claims that works has no part in it. In Romans 4 it is explicit. Paul clearly puts Abraham on the side of one who does not work but trusts in God (putting the emphasis on believing God), making justification by faith alone, rather than works and faith.

Along the same lines, in Galatians 3:6, Paul again quotes that same verse to demonstrate that God justifies man not by “works of the law” but rather “by hearing with faith,” putting the emphasis once again completely upon the faith rather than any of the works of the law.

James, on the surface, looks like he is contradicting Paul completely, stating in James 2:22-24 that faith without works is dead. Yet if we look at the verse in context, we find that the point that James is making is not in contradiction to the concept of justification by faith alone, but a response to a belief that it is possible for someone to have faith without bearing fruit of the works. James is rebuking those who have a faith that does not bear works, but he does not affirm that works form the grounds for one’s justification. Works are a demonstration of the existence of a real faith, but not the grounds upon which man is justified before God. The quotations of Genesis 15:6 only serves to emphasize that point, as he points to Genesis 22:1 in James 2:21 to show that Abraham demonstrated works as evidence that he had already been justified (counted righteous) on the basis of his belief.

What is our conclusion? God’s Word does not contradict itself. One obtains right standing before God by faith alone, but one demonstrates the existence of that faith by their good works done in faith. Those good works do not obtain right standing before God, it is only Christ’s good works that obtains it, and our faith in Christ that imputes His righteousness to ours.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006 at 2:13 PM

Abide in me...

Partially inspired by this post and completely inspired by Scripture, I wanted to add my thoughts on the discussion on "having a personal relationship with Jesus."

In short, I'm not a big fan of using the phrase "having a personal relationship with Jesus" to describe a member of the church.

A few reasons:

1) It is, at best, extrabiblical. There is nothing in Scripture that talks of salvation, discipleship, sanctification, or anything, as requiring a "personal relationship with Jesus." The call isn't to "have a relationship with me" but it's "repent and turn!"

2) At worst, it can be misleading. Without someone properly describing what he or she means by "have a personal relationship with Jesus," one can come away with a variety of different requirements/interpretation.

For example. Having a personal relationship with Jesus could mean that he or she talks to (maybe with?) Jesus on a regular basis. To almost everyone, this means prayer. But is prayer directed to Jesus? Or is it directed to God the Father? I would argue the latter, as Christ is our intercessor, as well as the fact that Jesus teaches his disciples to ask the Father of this, ask the Father of that, and to pray to Him in Christ's name, and the Father will do this...

Having a personal relationship with Jesus can mean the ability to "see" him all around. What that means can be interpreted in so many different ways. Do we have visions? Or 'see" him written in nature (which is entirely appropriate).

Instead, what is used in Scripture to describe a saint? Simply someone that is "in Him." Now of course, this comes with a lot less intellectual baggage. We actually do have to explain this. What does it mean to be "in Him"? This is the passage that inspired me and reminded me of the idea of being "in Him." I think it provides a fairly clear description of what it means to be one of the saints:

John 15

I Am the True Vine
1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

What does abiding in Jesus entail? A few basic principles that we can draw out:

v.1) An acknowledgement that it is God who grows, plants, and prunes.

v.2) A dependance upon Christ, the true vine. A real recognition of the penalties of sin (thrown away and burned), and the costs of discipleship (pruning).

v.3) Already clean, not by works, but by Christ.

v.4) recognition of complete dependance upon Christ as well as the exclusitivity of Christ being the only way.

v.5) The promise of bearing fruit for God for those who abide.

v.6) Contrasted with the consequences of not abiding in Christ - leading to withering and destruction.

v.7) Having Christ's words abide in us (we'll get to what that means) leads to a promise of a Father who hears and answers.

v.8) Glorify the Father by prove by fruit/works that they are truly in Christ.

v.9) Abide in Christ's love - recognize this, acknowledge it, and live it. Forgiven by the love of God, not earning it.

v.10) Obedience!

Really, the issue isn't with the phrase "personal relationship with Jesus" itself. It's much more with the ambiguity inherant in that phrase. If we defined what "personal relationship with Jesus" in a consistent and Scriptual manner, I don't think I could object.

But personally it seems much more consistent to use the phrase the Scripture uses: "in Him." It is in Him we live. It is in Him we are sanctified. It is in Him we grow. What does it mean to be "in Him?" Gradually to me it would seem to grow more and more to include these things. Now, this isn't a checklist to see if you're actually a Christian or anything like that. Nor is it a checklist to make sure you're saved. (Otherwise it would be justification by works all over again!). But what it is to me, is a goal and end. This would be what I would tell someone who asked in desperation "Then how can I be saved?"

1) Dependance upon God for all things. He is the one who made you as you are, without Him, you are nothing.
2) Acknowledgement of God's holiness and righteousness. God hates sin, and for all those who die outside of Christ, there is eternal punishment and wrath.
3) Acknowledgement of God's goodness and guidence. God loves His own, and prunes them so that they would bear fruit for Him.
4) Acknowledgement of being cleansed by faith alone and not by faith and works.
5) Acknowledgement of Christ being the way, the truth, the life and the only means to salvation.
6) A bearing of fruit in keeping with repentance. The fruit of the spirit come to mind.
7) Obedience to the Words of Christ. One cannot claim to love God yet hate his word.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006 at 9:11 PM

Reading Deeply

I still owe a post or two on the Trinity and a response to jefe's question. Apologies.

I'm also planning on posting my opinion on Asian-American churches. Personally I find the concept of one extra-biblical at best and unbiblical at worst. If anyone has any reasons why we should have Asian American churches (and we have to define what we mean by this, maybe it may be the case that we are in agreement but don't agree on the terminology), I'd like to hear it. But I will post my reasons in the future.

For now, here are some thought provokers:

Al Mohler reflects on the mystery of marraige.

Faith and Practice posts an interview with the author of the book "A Fight to the Death: Taking Aim at Sin Within."

Here's an excerpt:
On top of all that, one of the keys to overcoming sinful desire is replacing it with a greater righteous desire, a desire for the glory of God. Right now, I’m meeting with around 30 tenth-grade boys for an hour a day to talk about sexual purity. And one of the things I most want them to understand is that you fight desire with desire. You don’t fight sinful sexual desire simply by saying no to sinful sexual desire, though obviously that’s an element. It’s essential that we fight sinful sexual desire by filling ourselves up with an even greater righteous desire for the glory of God. And I’m certainly not going to have that greater righteous desire for God if I don’t know Him. To put it another way, if I truly know Him, how can that not produce powerful, life-transforming desires for Him?
Triablogue, in the midst of battling evil, posts an interesting interpretation of Matthew 25. I think I agree.

Reformation Theology posts an overview of Romans 8-9. I know those who will read it already either agree with me or disagree with me on this case and that post won't change anything. I still thought it was a good post.

Triablogue continues along the same vein and posts a bit more polemical piece, "the philosophy of monergism."

wuser posts her thoughts on why God decreed suffering. Short and sweet.

Nathan White posts an interesting thought on inviting the lost to church. I can't say (right now) I agree 100%, but the post certainly is thought provoking.

Al Mohler posted a thought provoking piece on secular education and it's impact. At first I thought he was writing off all secular education, but I think he's really sounding the call for people to come prepared with a Biblical worldview and bring it to school rather than coming to school to be fed their worldviews. Amen to that.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006 at 2:14 PM

Where I've been posting...

As of late, most of my efforts in the blogging world has been spent in dialogue (and debate) with Puritan Belief on his views of the Trinity. If you would like, feel free to hop on over to see what we've been talking about.

The whole discussion began when Puritan Belief posted "Jesus Christ is in you" in which he stated that Jesus Himself must be in a believer in order for them to be saved. Presenting an interesting form of theology on God, Puritan Belief denied the traditional formulation of God as Triune and instead claimed that "Jesus is the Father." It took a long line of questioning before this conclusion was reached.

Puritan Belief followed up with Emmanuel our Advocate. Again, discussion followed on the topic of the Trinity. This is where I jumped in. The previous blog post on the Trinity was posted on such a topic, I hope to follow up with it in the future, answering specifically jefe's questions.

As the comments continued to flow, with a number of people writing long enough for short essays, Puritan Belief posted another post Show us the Father? where he continued to present his beliefs on what Scripture claimed. Headway was made in clarification, but there still were a number of questions.

The latest post is What is the Father's Name?

The last few are the ones I've been replying to.

Now, a person may ask "why bother? Who cares what someone believes? Why are you wasting everyone's time on this topic? Didn't you recommend Puritan Belief's blog posts in the past? Why don't you go ahead and let him post the other stuff that has been encouraging instead of this debate that does not seem to be?"

I hope to answer that soon.

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Monday, April 03, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Rethinking memory verses 2 Timothy 1:7

2 Timothy 1
3I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

8Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

This verse jumped out at me:
7"for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. "
This is a verse well loved by John Eldridge in his book Wild at Heart. Unfortunately, he took this verse well out of context.

What John Eldridge said about the verse was that it was telling us to take risks, to take our lives into our own hands, with power. I could talk more about the book and how it abuses Scripture, but you can examine the reviews yourself at the Diet of Bookworms.

Back to the passage. What does "power" here really mean? Let's examine the context.
5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,
Paul is writing to Timothy, telling him how encouraged Paul has been by how much Timothy has grown spiritually, demonstrating a faith that makes Paul sure that it dwells within Timothy. Because Timothy has demosntrated this faith so clearly, he reminds Timothy to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of hands. Now, this passage itself is not explicit what this gift is, but the rest of the book as well as 1 Timothy show us that this gift is the gift of teaching and preaching.

1 Timothy 4:13-15 states it like this:
13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress.
Public reading, exhortation, to teaching, these are all part of the duties of a preacher.

Timothy is a preacher, and Paul is saying simply "Preach boldly!" On top of that, there is a strong echoing of 1 Timothy 4:12: "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. " Preach boldly even though you are young! Rather, set an example by your conduct, having a spirit of power, love and self-control.

Continuing the passage, we get a sense for what this "power" really means.
8Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God
Don't be afraid of the testimony about our Lord. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel! Why does Paul speak thus? For he knows the truth himself:

Romans 1:16 states:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power for salvation to all who believe! Who would be ashamed of this? This is the power for salvation!

On top of this, Paul writes "nor [be ashamed] nof me." Why would Timothy be ashamed of Paul? Because Paul is suffering for the Gospel, as Paul writes a few verses lower:
11I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12which is why I suffer as I do.
No. Paul is certainly not ashamed of his chains. Why? He is not ashamed because He knows that God has called him (appointed) to do so, that his job would entail suffering. And though he suffers, the Gospel is not bound.

He writes later in in 2 Timothy 2:
8Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!
Yes, Paul is suffering for the Gospel, but the Gospel is being preached, it will not be bound by the chains that bound Paul. So Paul encourages Timothy not to be ashamed of Paul. Just because Paul is bound does not mean that the Word is bound!

Continuing:
"but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God"
Do you remember that power in verse 7?
7"for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. "
This verse gives us the answer to our original question: "What is the power?"

Only one verse later, Paul makes it clear: The spirit of power is the spirit to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. Thus the command is clear:

Timothy! Because you have been charged as a preacher of the Word, preach the Word! Preach it boldly and fearlessly! God has given you a spirit of power, a power to suffer for it. You will endure! Through all trials and tribulations, through chains dear Timothy, suffer for the Gospel. Set the example for all others in your sufferings, in your love, in your self control. Be a defender of the Word!

I cannot help but be reminded of the story of Abdul Rahman, who was an Afgan who had converted to Christianity and was under the death penalty because he had converted.

At the bottom of the article, what does it say?
Rahman, meanwhile, said he was fully aware of his choice and was ready to die for it, according to an interview published Sunday in an Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"I am serene. I have full awareness of what I have chosen. If I must die, I will die," Abdul Rahman told the Rome daily, responding to questions sent to him via a human rights worker who visited him in prison.

"Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us," he added in a clear reference to Jesus.

May God grant us all that faith to die for the Gospel, to die in order that others may live, to say with Paul that we "endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." To His name be all glory.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006 at 12:57 AM

I thought it was familiar...

I saw someone on the plane today reading his Bible. Since the flight was kind of empty, I grabbed a seat next to him and asked him what he was reading (James) and why (looking for that verse on life being a vapor). We chit-chatted for a little bit. Turns out he went to Calvin College. I wish I had recognized what it was, but I didn't. Too bad for me. Could have led to a really cool and encouraging discussion. As it was, it still was encouraging and a blessing. Praise the Lord that He is raising up a generation of men and women reserved for His name.

"Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved"

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Saturday, April 01, 2006 at 8:43 PM

A presentation of the Trinity

From an annoymous comment on Puritan Belief's post (the post is linked for reference, read it carefully. I don't agree with the views espoused by the poster, the comment however is gold):

The Trinity

Scripture attests that “the mystery of godliness is great” (1 Timothy 3:16)—hence I am not presuming to resolve everything with regard to the triune Godhead. May the Lord give us insight into these things.

With regard to the Trinity, I think everyone (on this blog) is agreed that Scripture describes much commonality and overlap with regard to activity and characteristics of “the Father,” “the Son,” and “the Spirit.”

For instance, the Father, the Son and the Spirit all sanctify (1 Thessalonians 5:23, Hebrews 2:11, 1 Peter 1:2), each is eternal (Psalm 90:2, Micah 5:1-2, Hebrews 9:14), each is called God (Philippians 1:2, Colossians 2:9, Acts 5:3-4), and many other examples, including omniscience and omnipresence, and speaking, creating, and loving. And the Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ, so it should not surprise us that Scripture refers to the Spirit within (John 14:17), Christ within (Colossians 1:27), and God within (2 Corinthians 6:16). It should not surprise us that Jesus refers to himself as the “I AM” (John 8:58) or that the “Lord is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17) or that God sends his Spirit and they are created (Psalm 104:30), or that God sends his Spirit to Mary (Luke 1:35), and the Son of God is born in the flesh. The pattern seen in Scripture, although I do not have space to develop this, is that the Son and the Spirit eternally act on behalf of (and to glorify) the Father (e.g., Jesus glorifies the Father’s name, Jesus is the lamb slain before the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8), the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will—Romans 8:27).

This is to be entirely expected, if as Scripture teaches: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Nonetheless, the Hebrew word translated “one” in this verse often refers to plurality in unity, such as two people becoming one flesh (Genesis 2:24), the builders of Babel powerfully being one people (Genesis 11:6), the people of Israel answering with one voice (Exodus 24:3), and many other examples. There is a different Hebrew word for “unique,” or “one and only,” but this is not used in Deuteronomy 6:4 to describe God.

Plurality within unity, then is also consistent with Scripture’s describing distinctions within the Godhead. For instance, during Jesus’ baptism, the Father speaks while the Spirit comes down in bodily form like a dove while Jesus is coming out of the water (Luke 3:21-22). During Stephen’s stoning, he is filled with the Spirit and sees Jesus standing beside God the Father in heaven (Acts 7:55).

That Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not synonymous should be clear insofar as: “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:32). That Jesus and the Father are not identical should be clear from the fact that Jesus calls upon the Father as his second witness (John 8:16-18). Moreover, Jesus prays to his Father, is often described as being in heaven alongside the Father, does not know the day and hour of his return whereas his Father does, and is the appointed mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). That God the Father and the Spirit are not identical should be clear from the fact that the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:27), and that “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6).

This view of the Trinity as ontological1 unity but economic2 trinity is fully consistent with the Sovereign God who says, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26, italics mine) or who says regarding the builders of Babel, “Come, let us go down and confuse their language” (Genesis 11:7). This is consistent with the God who consistently throughout the Hebrew bible is called “Elohim,” (God in plurality) although he acts with singular verbs (in contrast, when the false gods are called elohim, they almost exclusively govern plural verbs).

This is consistent with the Godhead who is self-reliant and does not depend on creation for anything, who can act as he sees fit, always in the presence of witnesses, including the two other persons of the Trinity (sometimes God calls heaven and earth as two witnesses, as in Deuteronomy 30:19. But clearly this would not have been an option in eternity-past before God created the heavens and the earth). Jesus demonstrates this for us in John 8:16-18: “But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me” (John 8:16-18).

And it is from those Scriptures (and many others) that is derived the concept of “one God, three persons”—the orthodox view of the Trinity.

April 02, 2006 11:29 AM

1The ontological Trinity speaks of essence (John 1:1-2), nature or attributes of the Trinity. Or more simply - the ontological Trinity is who God is

2Economic Trinity: When we describe the acts of the triune God with respect to the creation, history, salvation, our daily lives, etc, we describe the Economic Trinity. Refers to how the Trinity operates within redemptive history as we think of the roles or functions performed by each of the persons of the Trinity. The Economic Trinity is what God does (definitions from Monergism.com added for clarification)

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