Sunday, May 26, 2013

Believe This or Go to Hell

            Trinity Sunday 2013

We have come to Trinity Sunday. I appreciate the "logic" of the church year.  We affirm and celebrate Christ through whom we know God - first his incarnation, then his passion and death, then his resurrection, then his ascension, and finally his giving the the Holy Spirit to his church. Having come to know the truth of God in Christ the church is now able to affirm the truth on the Holy Trinity.

 Many years ago, at Wallace Church, the pastors were preaching "The Great Truths of the Bible." It fell to me on a Sunday night to preach on the doctrine of the Trinity. (To my chagrin Dr. Richard Halvorson, the retired minister of Fouth Presbyterian Church in Bathesda, MD, showed up to worship with us that evening.)  I remember reading in preparation for that sermon something by J.l. Packer in which he said that the average Anglican preached on the Trinity only on Trinity Sunday. But what he said about non-comformists was even more striking. If memory serves he said that the average non-conformist preached on the Trinity not at all. Yet this is the doctrine that sets apart all churches that have any claim to being Christian from all those sects and cults which have no claim at all. 

I believe it was Packer who also pointed me to the great Athanasian Creed, the Creed that most comprehensively sets forth the Trinitarian faith. As the Apostles' Creed was not written by the Apostles but expresses the Apostolic Faith, so the Athanasian Creed was probably not perpared by Athanasius but rather gives fuller expression to the Christological and Trinitarian truths that Athansius so ably defended and which were expressed in the Nicene Creed. 

Sadly, this Creed is seldom used in Christian worship. 

The Athanasian Creed 

Whosever would be saved,
before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled,
without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

And the Catholic Faith is this:
That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,
neither confounding the Persons,
nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father,
another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the
Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.

The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible,
and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.

And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated,
but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.

So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty,
and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three
Almighties, but one Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God,
and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord,
and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.

For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge
every Person by himself to be both God and Lord,
So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say,
There be three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son,
neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons;
one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other;
none is greater, or less than another; But the whole three Persons
are co-eternal together and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid,
the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also
believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess,
that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds;
and Man of the substance of his Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God and perfect Man,
of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the
Father, as touching his manhood; Who, although he be God and Man,
yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One, not by conversion of the Godhead
into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God;
One altogether; not by confusion of Substance,
but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul
and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell,
rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father,
God Almighty, from whence he will come
to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies
and shall give account for their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life
everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully,
he cannot be saved.
The choir of King's College singing the Trinitarian Hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy"


Furrier said...

As usual, I am again blessed by your blogpost.

One of the mysteries I eagerly anticipate understanding in heaven is that of the Trinity. I believe what God has told, but relish that I shall one day understand better.

Curt Day said...

I am not disagreeing with you here, I am expressing a frustration of mine with how the Gospel is preached today. The main reason for believing is to escape Hell. In other words, the main appeal to believe is something we do for ourselves and thus always doing for ourselves is not challenged often enough.

It is not that our eternal destination should not be part of the mix. It is that the way the Gospel is presented, it sometimes is the only concern presented. And when that happens, again, doing for ourselves is never challenged.