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Worship, the Trinity, and the charismatic movement

The Trinity has been largely neglected in Pentecostalism, as in the entire Western Church right throughout the centuries. So demonstrates Robert Letham in The Holy Trinity. Most striking and significant for me personally in Letham's excellent and much needed book is his chapter, The Trinity, Worship and Prayer. He outlines the importance of understanding the Trinity for our right response to God in true Christian worship and prayer. Apart from the fact that there would be no true Christian experience without a knowledge of the Trinity, Letham quickly and convincingly shows that authentically Christian worship and prayer is distinctively trinitarian:
"Our communion with God "consists in his communication of himself unto us, with our returnal unto him... flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him. [1] (p. 414) ... 
Here is the reverse movement to that seen as the ground of the church's worship--by the Holy Spirit through Christ to the Father. This encompasses our entire response to, and relationship with, God--from worship through the whole field of Christian experience...
Putting it another way, from the side of God, the worship of the church is the communion of the Holy Trinity with us his people. We are inclined to view worship as what we do, but if we follow our argument, it is first and foremost something the triune God does, our actions initiated and encompassed by his (p. 416) ...

The worship of the church is thus not only grounded in the mediation of Christ, but takes place in union with him and through his mediatorial work and continued intercession (p. 417) ...

Since Christian worship is determined by initiated by shaped by, and directed to the Holy Trinity, we worship the three with one undivided act of adoration (p. 418).
The Holy Trinity also has this to say specifically on the Pentecostal focus on the Holy Spirit, under the heading, Worship, Perichoresis, and the Charismatic Movement:
"Richard Garrin, in a recent article, points to a tendency in the charismatic movement to separate the Holy Spirit from Christ. He counters by pointing to the close connection that Paul draws between Christ and the Spirit [2]. This argument is undergirded by the patristic teaching on perichoresis, the mutual indwelling of the three persons, all occupying the same divine space. The Father is in the Son, the Son is in the Father, the Holy Spirit is in the Son and the Father, the Father is in the Holy Spirit, and the Son is in the Holy Spirit. Thus, to worship one person at the expense of the others is to divide the undivided Trinity. Worship of any one of the three at once entails worship of all three and worship of the indivisible Trinity. An undue emphasis on one person, whether it be the focus on Jesus in pietism or the concentration on the Holy Spirit in charismatic circles, is a distortion. Owen, in his discussion, is careful to guard against this danger." (p. 421)

Dividing the undivided Trinity; it might not seem like such a serious distortion, until we're convinced about the fiercely and uniquely Trinitarian emphasis and focus of New Testament Christianity in the Scriptures. The authors of the NT of course got this from Jesus, who it seems did not cease to explain and insist upon the importance of understanding his relationship to the Father, and in turn his relationship with the Spirit. 

Letham begins his section on the Trinity and Worship by calling us stop neglecting in the Western Church the uniquely Christian doctrine of God as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit:
"God-centred worship (can worship be anything else?) must, by definition, give center stage to what is distinctive of Christianity, the high-water mark of God's self-revelation in the Bible. Yet... In the West, the Trinity has in practice been relegated to such an extent that most Christians are little more than practical modalists. As Laats comments, "Instead of being in the centre of christian worship and thinking it has been marginalised"...
[And he goes on to give this great example...] 
J. I. Packer's best-seller Knowing God (1973) has only seven pages out of 254 on the Trinity. He recognizes that for most Christians it is an esoteric mystery to which lip service may be paid once a year on Trinity Sunday. However, after this chapter is over, he carries on as if nothing has happened...

A right understanding of God as a Trinity changes the way understand the Baptism in the Spirit (See here for an article outlining what the New Testament teaches about Baptism with the Spirit in context).

We need to stop neglecting the New Testament's unique and insistent focus on God as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and how our knowledge of that Union is to shape our whole response to him. Pentecostals need a greater focus on the persons of the Trinity; that is, Pentecostalism needs to be more Christ-ian!



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Letham, Robert. The Holy Trinity - In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship. P&R Publishing Company: New Jersey, 2004.

[1] Owen, Of Communion with God, in Works, ed. Goold, 2:8-9.
[2] Richard B. Gaffin Jr., "Challenges of the Charismatic Movement to the Reformed Tradition," Ordained Servant 7 (1998): 48-57.

3 comments:

Everyday BBW said...

I am now Pentecostal but grew up Baptist. I am so grateful that God lead me to a Pentecostal church. I've experienced religion in a way I never thought I would, and my relationship with God has grown greatly.

nahidworld said...

Charismatic people are everywhere. Yet, they never seem to focus on their charisma. It’s easy to identify a charismatic person. They are cumulatively observant and sensitive to human nature. In fact, rather than egotism, their charisma is a matter of a finely honed spirit and ability to fearlessly tread when others dare not go

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