How the Triune God Transforms Worship
In new issue of Credo Magazine, “The Trinity and the Christian Life: Why a Triune God Makes All the Difference,” Robert Letham has contributed an engaging and convicting article entitled, “How the Triune God Transforms Worship.” Robert Letham is Senior Lecturer in Systematic and Historical Theology at Wales Evangelical School of Theology (W.E.S.T.). He has advanced degrees from Westminster Theological Seminary and the University of Aberdeen. He is the author of several books and articles, including The Work of Christ, The Westminster Assembly: Reading its Theology in Historical Context, and his most recent book is Union with Christ.
Here is the beginning of his article:
The worship of the church focuses on God, ascribing to him adoration, homage and loving submission. He alone is to be worshiped (Exod. 20:1-3, Rev. 22:8-9). But who is God? What is the distinctively Christian doctrine of God? I have argued elsewhere that his new covenant name is the one name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). This follows the pattern established in creation (Gen. 1:1-5, 26ff, Ps. 33:6-9, 104:29-30, John 1:1-4, Col. 1:15-20, Heb. 1:1-2), providence (Ps. 104:29-30, Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:3) and grace (OT & NT in passim), that the Son and the Holy Spirit are one with the Father from eternity. Therefore, church worship is to be explicitly Trinitarian.
The neglect of the trinity in the Western church
Yet trinitarian theology has had a wider impact on the piety of the Eastern church. Eastern liturgies are permeated with trinitarian prayers and doxologies. In the West the trinity has in practice been relegated to such an extent that most Christians are little more than practical modalists. There is a paucity of hymns that are clearly Trinitarian; many could equally be sung by unitarians, orthodox Jews or Muslims. You will be surprised. Of course, we may bring to these texts trinitarian assumptions and so interpret them, although I daresay only a very few may do so, but this is not present in the texts themselves. This is a serious deficit. In order to address it we need to grasp howthe church’s theology should inform and shape its worship.
Only God can make God known and determine how we relate to him
Naming in the ancient near East denoted the sovereignty of the one who named over the one named. Thus, for example, Adam names the animals (Gen. 2:19f), while parents name their children. However, only God ever names God. Only he has the right to name himself, for he is not subject to any other being. Contemporary human attempts to re-imagine God are simply that—figments of the imagination, idols made in a human image, without validity. It follows that God is sovereign in his self-revelation. Further, God is sovereign in granting us knowledge of himself by the Holy Spirit. The additional factor of human sin places us in total reliance on God to make himself known. Humanity’s predilection for new objects and forms of worship is rebellion against the true and living God, the holy trinity. Only by the gracious action of the trinity, breaking into our darkness and death and arousing us to new life, can we ever know him.
Read the rest of Letham’s article today!
The Trinity and the Christian Life: Why a triune God makes all the difference
One of the dangers every church faces is slipping, slowly and quietly and perhaps unknowingly, into a routine where sermons are preached, songs are sung, and the Lord’s Supper is consumed, but all is done without a deep sense and awareness of the Trinity. In other words, if we are not careful our churches, in practice, can look remarkably Unitarian. And such a danger is not limited to the pews of the church. As we leave on Sunday morning and go back into the world, does the gospel we share with our coworker look decisively and explicitly Trinitarian in nature? Or when we pray in the privacy of our own home, do the three persons of the Trinity make any difference in how we petition God?
In this issue of Credo Magazine, we have brought together some of the sharpest thinkers in order to bring our minds back to the beauty, glory, and majesty of our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But we do not merely want to see him as triune, but recognize why and how the Trinity makes all the difference in the Christian life. Therefore, in this issue Fred Sanders, Robert Letham, Michael Reeves, Scott Swain, Tim Challies, Stephen Holmes, and many others come together in order to help us think deeper thoughts about how God is one essence and three persons, and what impact the Trinity has on who we are and what we do as believers.
Matthew Barrett, Executive Editor