Being Trinity

Being Trinity

The nature of God should determine the way we live, act as church and serve God. Colin Gunton has lamented that, whereas Christianity developed a special Christian ontology for talking about God and Christ, it never did for talking about the Church. His strategy then (after Moltmann) is to borrow Christian ontology about God in Trinity to talk about the church.

If there is something we need in theological education today (certainly part of the Church), it is a specifically Christian ontology to avoid us being so pushed around in our practice and our thinking by secular cultural and higher education patterns that we lose our soul. What then of the Trinitarian nature of theological education? This is surely much more than a happy analogy but an attempt to be distinctly Christian and reflect the very nature of God in what we do. Where would this apply? Let me state three propositions;

God is fundamentally relational. Our theological education is therefore most Christian when it is the same.

Of course, relations between the three persons of the trinity, even in their most eastern form are different from ours. They are absolute, of same nature, and exhibit a perfect unity of will, thought and intention. But they do declare that relationships are at the very heart of God’s nature. Anyone who has been in a college or seminary where theological education is not practiced through fundamentally a relational approach between teachers and students, teachers and teachers; management and staff, knows how ungodly that becomes.

God – wholly one and yet three – provides a specifically Christian pattern for understanding holistic theological education.

We are asked to practice holistic theological education but are presented with at least a tripartite taxonomy of educational objectives in the spiritual, academic and practical ministerial realms. Somehow they need to become one. The Trinitarian doctrine of perichoresis or dynamic co-inherence is a help here. It talks of the circulation of the divine life between the three, bringing each to fullness of divinity, so that when you encounter one you encounter God, in all his threeness.  The idea that spiritual objectives could bring to life academic teaching, academics could bring to life Christian service and so on, is a delightful picture of good theological education. And to ensure that when our students encounter one, they encounter in some way all three objectives is a beautiful aim.

Trinity says that mission is at the heart of the nature of God. It must therefore be at the heart of our theological education.

As Barth has pointed out, mission is at the heart of the very nature of God because the father sends the son. The mission of God comes first and we participate. To be Trinitarian is to be missional in intent and practice. We see ourselves not doing many things but one thing, participating in the great mission of God to this needy world. It is this that determines our relationship with Church, society and our students.

I know. The experience of most of us in theological education would cause us to shy away from regarding it as divine. But, to the extent that we work for it to be relational, holistic and to have fundamental mission intent, we can honestly say that it partakes of the nature of God. And to the extent that we do not, it is less than it should be.

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5 Comments on “Being Trinity”

  1. Glenda Weldon Says:

    Thank you for this excellent article

  2. Perry Shaw Says:

    Thank you Drew for some suggestive elements for a theology of theological education. For too long theological education has been the prisoner of Greek philosophical frameworks, and your observations reiterate the importance of having theology drive pedagogy. In the scriptures “to know” is “to have relationship”: to “know God” is more than a knowledge of systematic theology but the extension of cognitive knowledge into a growing holistic relationship with the Creator whose nature is trinitarian relationality. As you allude, a genuine Christian epistemology for theological education must have relationship at the heart, worked out in mission to the world.

  3. PatrickM Says:

    Thanks Graham, very helpful and thought provoking, esp on trinity and mission. Coincidentially I wrote on the link between Trinity, love and theological education in our last Irish Bible Institute newsletter. See

  4. i have been reading your blog for a while now, and i really do love your writing, i was wondering is there any way you can get updates for the latest article you post on email or even cell, Forgive my immaturity in this as i am really new to this internet stuff

    • Hi Pinterest,

      Thanks for the comment. It is easy to subscribe. just go to the home page and on the right you will find the heading “email subscription”. just give your email address and you will get all subsequent posts each month.

      All the best,


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