Let’s continue to explore the beauty of the Trinity together. Note the priority that the doctrine of the Trinity grants to the intensely personal character of God. According to historic Christianity, the essence of God is not an impersonal genus, some kind of divine stuff” that the Father, Son, and Spirit share. Rather, the Father and the essence of God are numerically one and the same. There is no abstract nature called God” that the person of the Father happens to have. No, the person of the Father is that God,” and everything that God” means, is fully and personally existent in the Father. There simply is no divinity” except the Father’s own personal reality. The Son and the Spirit are likewise numerically one with the essence of God, eternally receiving from the Father (who begets the Son and who breathes forth the Spirit) the fullness of the divine being, so that they also are fully and personally divine. The only God there is, is this personal-times-personal-times-personal, this exponentially personal, Trinity.

The intensely personal character of God as Father, Son, and Spirit entails an unqualifiedly mutual or relational component in the divine life. The three persons are distinct, but they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, independent of one another. On the contrary, they are so dependent, so interdependent, that though each is the one God, they also together constitute the one God. Christian tradition has sometimes referred to this startling feature of the divine life using the Greek word perichoresis, a term whose root has to do with dancing (as in our English word choreography”). The idea is that the divine persons flow in and out of one another like participants in an intricate dance, but more so: they fully and totally interpenetrate or indwell one another – as Jesus himself intimated when he prayed to his Father and said, You are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21).

This profound interpenetration tells us a lot about God’s intensely personal character. There is within God’s nature no tiniest potential for loving relationship or mutual glory or any such thing that has not been fully, personally, and interpersonally actualized from all eternity. Before the world was created, the love of the Father for the Son in the Spirit (John 17:24) and the reciprocal glory of Father and Son and Spirit (John 17:5; 16:14 – 15) were already permanent, living, joyous realities. At the core of all being, there was, and there is, and always will be fully actualized mutual love, an indescribably rich, distinctively relational, intensely personal plenitude. 

It is wonderful to contemplate the implications of God as Trinity for our life as God’s image-bearers. Next week we’ll take a close look at how this Trinitarian way of thinking about God helps us to understand and appreciate creation more fully. Blessings.

This series has been adapted from Steven D. Boyer and Chris Hall’s The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable. Hungry for more? Please visit Baker Academic for more information.

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