Friday, January 13, 2012

I believe in God, the Father almighty...

                What a first week back to the Institute! It’s been great being back, although it was a little strange at first. It was refreshing to spend a couple of week out in the “real world” with my family. The break reminded me of the environment that we are going to be headed back into come April. For the past several months, the seventy of us have been striving to live in Biblical community. We begin our days in communal worship and prayer. We bear each other’s burdens, know each other’s sufferings, celebrate in each other’s joys, and learn and grow together in our pursuit for Christ every day. I have friends here who are holding me accountable in ways that I have never had before. I have friends and leaders who challenge me like crazy. I know that I’m being prepared for a lifetime of ministry beyond these walls in whatever context life takes me. 

                We began our second semester digging into the Trinity. What a topic to start with! Geez, let’s just say that it was a whirlwind of a week. Our professor for the week was Dr. Glenn Kreider from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is a very intelligent and knowledgeable man who isn’t afraid to challenge your beliefs and stretch your thinking. This week, I felt like I was in seminary. There were things that Dr. Kreider taught that I found fascinating, some things that were challenging, and even some things that I didn’t agree with. 

                Our main purpose for this week was to learn about the Trinity. This semester, our big project (like the Bible Overview for last semester) is developing our belief statements about different aspects of our faith. For example, this past week, we had our rough draft of our belief on God the Father due. We’ll continue on with Jesus this week, then the Holy Spirit, Trinity, etc. With that being said, it was helpful to learn about the Trinity as we are thinking about writing that belief statement in a few weeks. 

I would love to share with y’all some fun things that I learned about the Trinity this week. First of all, I learned that Christianity is the only religion that affirms the Trinity. Judaism, for example, although it acknowledges God the Father and the Holy Spirit, does now acknowledge Jesus Christ as Messiah and, therefore, the Son of God. Islam acknowledges “Allah”, who they see as the God of Abraham, but they do not acknowledge the Holy Spirit or Jesus as God. Christianity is the only faith that believes in this crazy idea known as the Trinity, in which God is persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These persons are distinctly different, yet one in the same. They are uniquely independent, yet independent on one another. They exist as one, yet also as three. What a crazy concept! Personally, belief in the Trinity has always been one of those things that I try to understand to the best of my ability, and then the rest just has to be faith. I like that balance, though. Sometimes, things just make more sense if they’re taken on faith.

One of my favorite things that Dr. Kreider did this week was that he spelled out the basic truths of the Trinity. I loved that it is an easy and simple (as simple as it can be) way to just focus on what we believe as Christians about out God. The first is that there is only one God. Although God exists in three persons, that does not change the fact that there is only One. Christianity is not polytheistic; we believe that only One God exists. We believe that the Father is God eternally. We believe that Jesus is God eternally. We believe that the Holy Spirit is God eternally. They are all God, but they are not all each other. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Father or the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. As he was talking about this, it reminded me of an illustration that my friend Marquette Bugg showed me in college. Although I think it was Marquette; maybe it was Meredith Summers. But, regardless, props to both of them. They are both so incredible and I’m so thankful for their presence in my life. Anyway, I wish I could put this illustration in here. Maybe some day.

                My favorite thing that I realized this week was how the Apostle’s Creed fit with the study of the Trinity. I had never realized it before. The Creed means even more to me now that we are going through our belief statements. It’s empowering for me to see that I agree with the same thing that millions of believers have for centuries. We are not alone in this pursuit of Christ.

The Apostle’s Creed:

I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator 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, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will 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 life everlasting. Amen.