Discover how a secular song can trigger thoughts about one of the most complex doctrines of Christianity.
Girl Talk–stage name for American DJ Greg Gillis–creates mashup-style remixes entirely made up of plundered material.
The song In Step is a beautiful example. In particular the 30 seconds Gillis seamlessly blends Groove in the Heart, Push It and Lithium.
It’s utterly flawless.
The Seamless Economy of Salvation
Around 200 A. D., early apologist and church father Irenaeus said that our Christian faith is in this:
“One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit.”
When talking this way, Irenaeus was referring to an economy of salvation. What he meant by economy of salvation was “the way in which God has ordered the salvation of humanity in history.”
Don’t miss this: Irenaeus was simply insisting that the entire work of salvation–from the first moment of creation to the last moment of history–was and is and will always be the work of the one and the same God.
It’s utterly flawless. Utterly seamless.
The Seamless Persons of the Trinity
At about the same time, Tertullian, an African apologist, theologian and anti-heretical writer, was the first to use the term “Trinity.”
What Tertullian added to the actual debate over the Trinity–a debate that continues to this day–outside a clever new word, was that substance is what unites the three aspects of the economy of salvation while person is what distinguishes them.
They are distinct, yet not divided.
We define that there are two, the Father and the Son, and three with the Holy Spirit, and this number is made by the pattern of salvation…. They are three, not in dignity, but in degree, not in substance but in form, not in power but in kind.
The Seamless Unity of the Holy Spirit
Another part of the obsession with identifying the Trinity in early church history had to do with the emergence in importance of the work of the Holy Spirit.
During that time theologians batted around these questions: Was the Holy Spirit part of the original three? Should he be considered coequal and coeternal?
Christian author and philosopher Origen, who died in 254 A. D., thought the Holy Spirit was definitely co-equal and co-eternal, thus a part of the original Trinity:
The Holy Spirit would never have been reckoned in the unity of the trinity, ie., along with the unchangeable father and His Son–unless He had always been there.
Athenagoras, another Christian philosopher writing mid toward the end of the 2nd Century, said this about the Holy Spirit:
The Holy Spirit Himself, also, which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun.
In this quote we hear traces of the coming debate about the procession of the Holy Spirit from God. A debate–along with heretical views–that got answered at early Church councils.
The Seamless Purpose Behind the Trinity
In a simple secular song I’m reminded of the Trinity. Reminded of this often-neglected doctrine. And the beauty of God. Christ. And the Holy Spirit. That I can adore God in the profane.
But I’m ultimately reminded that God, through Christ, wants to draw me out of the profane. And into the holy.
So, far from being a rather pointless piece of theological speculation, the doctrine of the Trinity is grounded directly in the complex human experience of redemption in Christ.
Origen, one of the most distinguished early Christianity scholars, rightly drew the conclusion when he said that the believer “will not attain salvation if the Trinity is not complete.”
That’s why we should ultimately bother with this doctrine. What do you think?
**Part of the Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Doctrine of God’s Trinity series.**