Self-expression is the slogan of the day. This article shows that this slogan undermines the reality of life as modelled by the Triune God. The Trinity teaches that reality lies in relationships.

Source: Australian Presbyterian, 1999. 2 pages.

Other-Wise: In the Presence of God

The doctrine of the Trinity is the glory of the Christian religion. It tells us that ultimate reality is personal relationship. God is ultimate reality, and is the ground of all other reality, and yet God is not a single monad or an impersonal absolute, but God is relation­ship. God is Trinity. He is not the uncon­scious unmoved mover of Aristotle; nor is He the ground of our being, the one who lets be, of modern theology, but he is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

That God is a living God becomes plain when he addresses us. That he is a God of infinite goodness becomes plain not only from the content of his Word to us, but also from our confirmation of that good­ness through our reflection of our own experience in the world.

Through the revelation of the Trinity we learn that the living God, the good and true God, is a God who has relationship within himself and that values of relationships ulti­mately belong to reality in its most absolute form. In the light of this doctrine, personal relationships are seen to be ultimate, are seen to be the most real things that are.

The characteristic of true relationship is other-person-centredness. God is good, God is personal, God has relationship within himself, and because God is good these relationships within the Trinity have the characteristic of other-person-centredness. Thus the Scriptures reveal that the Father loves the Son, he gives all things to the Son (Jn 3:35), he shows him all that he does (Jn. 5:20). The Son in response does always that which pleases the Father (Jn 8:29). His obedience springs from his love: “I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do” (Jn. 14:31).

There is complete other person-cen­tredness in this relationship of the Father to the Son and of the Son to the Father. The Son does nothing of himself, but as the Father taught him (Jn. 8:28). The same is true of the relationship of the Spirit to the Father, and the Son. The Spirit is self-effac­ing. He does not speak from himself, but he takes the things of the Son and shows them to believers; he glorifies Christ (Jn 16:13, 14).

Ultimate reality is good, personal, rela­tional. And these relationship are other­-person-centred, as all good true relation­ships must be. This is the character of God and this is how creation has been made. We have been created in God’s image for rela­tionship and this relationship must be other-person-centred.

The doctrine of the Trinity contradicts modern philosophical and social concepts. The idea of self-expression as the primary objective of life is very popular nowadays. Even in Christian circles we are being told that the first thing is to love ourselves. But these modern ideas are in contradiction to reality, to God in Trinity.

Similarly, the humanist ideal of the bal­anced complete life as the object of living is again contrary to what is actual, for human­ism is self-centred in ultimate analysis. God is Trinity; Trinity is relational. The relationships are good and personal and other-person-centred.

The famous slogan of the French Revolution, which was the fruit of the Enlightenment, namely, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, is in fact a denial of genuine rela­tionship. Bestsellers today reflect the modern ideal of expressing yourself, of lov­ing yourself, of liberating yourself from your relationships with other people, which constrict the development of your own personality.

Through the revelation of the Trinity believers can see that this popular philo­sophical concept and social objective is contrary to reality and therefore will not bring the hoped-for benefits of happiness or peace. A renewal of understanding of the Trinity and its implications for the way human life should be based will lead to the recognition that personal relationships which are other-person-centred are ulti­mate in value for living, even though it should turn out that in serving these relationships it becomes impossible to pursue the chimera of gracious living, the balanced life, and so-called authentic existence. Even life itself may be lost, but eternity will vin­dicate the reality of the basis of such actions.

The modern philosophy of life known as existentialism concentrates on self-expression, “living an authentic life”, and this is translated into everyday language by the phrase “doing your own thing” This is a very popular way of understanding true living today. People feel that they must express themselves, that they cannot be trammeled by their relationships with other people, whether with husband or wife or children. They must be indepen­dent and pursue their own goals.

This is not the way in which the Trinity relates. Eastern religious popular in the Western world today have the same con­cept of reality. The doctrine of the Trinity contradicts and corrects these modern thoughts and attitudes. It teaches that real­ity seeks the welfare of the other person. Reality is good, it does not serve itself but serves others.

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