The Mystery of the Trinity (Scott R. Swain)
In the most recent issue of Credo Magazine, “The Trinity and the Christian Life: Why a Triune God Makes All the Difference,” Scott R. Swain has contributed an article entitled, “The Mystery of the Trinity.” Swain walks us through some of the most important facets of the doctrine of the Trinity. But first, a little about Scott Swain. He joined the faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary in 2006 and serves as Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Academic Dean of the Orlando campus. He teaches core courses related to systematic theology and biblical interpretation. Prior to joining RTS, Dr. Swain taught theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois and served on the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
In his teaching and research, Swain seeks to retrieve the riches of patristic, medieval, and Reformation patterns of biblical interpretation and theologizing for the sake of the contemporary church’s renewal according to the Word of God. With Michael Allen, he edits two series that seek to embody a theology of “renewal through retrieval”: Zondervan Academic’s New Studies in Dogmatics and T & T Clark’s International Theological Commentary. He is the author of The God of the Gospel: Robert Jenson’s Trinitarian Theology (IVP Academic, 2013), Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and its Interpretation (T & T Clark, 2011), and co-author with Andreas Köstenberger, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel (IVP Academic, 2008).
Here is the introduction to Swain’s article:
The doctrine of the Trinity is the most sublime truth of the Christian faith and its supreme treasure. Christian teaching concerning one God in three persons flows from the revelation of the high and holy name of the Lord God Almighty: “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). This glorious name identifies the true and living God and, because it is the name into which we are baptized, constitutes our only comfort in life and in death. Not only does the doctrine of the Trinity identify God, it also illumines all of God’s works, enabling us to perceive more clearly the wonders of the Father’s purpose in creation, of Christ’s incarnation, and of the Spirit’s indwelling. All things are from the Trinity, through the Trinity, and to the Trinity. And so, seen in the sublime light of the Trinity, we see all things in a new light.
Sublime and supreme, the doctrine of the Trinity is also singular and self-interpreting. The doctrine is singular insofar as the truth about God as Trinity cannot be categorized among or explained by comparison with other “trinities” in creation (for example, the threefold form of ice, water, and vapor). “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?” the Lord asks in Isaiah 40:18. And the desired response is “no one.” The triune God is and acts in a class by himself. For this reason, the Trinity is self-interpreting, a mystery that faith comes to grasp only insofar as the triune God interprets his identity and action to us in Holy Scripture. “No one knows the Father except the Son,” Jesus declares in Matthew 11:27, “and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” The good news of course is that the triune God does interpret himself to us, presenting to Christian theology the delightful and demanding task of bearing witness to the supreme and singular reality that is the Lord our God, the reality of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The purpose of the present article is to provide a brief overview of the doctrine of the Trinity, following the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 11:25-27 as our primary guide, but also attending to ways in which this teaching is echoed throughout the Bible and summarized in the church’s creeds and confessions. In the doctrine of the Trinity, as in all other doctrines, the Lord Jesus Christ is our only teacher (Matt. 23:8). He alone knows the Father (again, Matt. 11:27) and he, with the Father, gives us the Spirit that we might know the things freely given to us by God (1 Cor. 2:11-12). Therefore, if we would learn of the Trinity, we must learn from Jesus (Matt. 11:29). We must direct our attention to the place where he speaks, Holy Scripture, and we must submit our minds to the obedient pattern of thinking which he demands. Only then will we know the doctrine of the Trinity as we ought to know it. Only then will we share the mind of Christ.
Read the rest of Swain’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