Practical atheism thrives on deficient views of God, eroding the joy that Christians should experience in their everyday lives, enveloping the disciple in a mist of uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety. The habits of Christianity (its diverse rituals and liturgies) can form disciplines of holiness--but only insofar as they drive from and toward a clear view of who God has revealed himself to be in the Bible. For this reason, the most edifying traditions and authors1 have woven into their theology a robust Trinitarianism, the core revelation of God’s identity to humanity. The doctrine of the Trinity is not the crazy uncle of theology--something Christians only mention when it comes up and only then with hesitation that belies a reticent confusion bordering on embarrassment. Instead the doctrine of the Trinity is crucial not only for an accurate and singular understanding of salvation2 but also for the everyday comfort of Christians beset by the usual but bewildering circumstances that mark their pilgrimage home to their final destination with God.
For the sake of time3 let’s consider the simple Trinitarian statement found in 2 Corinthians 13:14, ”The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
I will assume that if you had to choose a member of the Trinity to be fully God that you would likely choose the Father over the Son and Holy Spirit . Even though we won’t dwell long on the full deity of the Father, there is a wealth of heart-stirring meditation to be done simply around the theme of God Almighty as our perfect, loving Father. Indeed, the doctrine of adoption is both under-taught or mistaught throughout Evangelicalism. But turning from this we are still left in 2 Corinthians 13:14 with the grace of Jesus and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.4 Let’s consider now how the union of the doctrine of the Trinity with these two Persons and activities of grace and fellowship fuel the joy of the Christian.
The Full Deity of Jesus and Maximum Grace
One of my favorite scenes in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom finds Dr. Jones on a remote island facing an army of natives, all carrying sharp spears and looking rather unhappy. In dismay, Indiana reaches for his trusty pistol only to see the natives in front of him flee in abject terror. A snicker crosses his face as, to his surprise, he seems to be quite a formidable opponent. Then the camera pans to face Indiana Jones, revealing a giant boulder rolling down the hill behind him — the boulder being the actual source of the natives’ fear. Many people view Jesus that way, as a valiant but at times im-potent action hero who needs a more powerful force behind him to back him up. This is not the Christ of Scripture who is fully man and fully God. I can still hear the words of my seminary profes-sor Dr. Doug Kelly saying, “There is no bigger God behind the back of Jesus. He is fully God.”
This truth is as important in the seminary classroom as it is when you’ve been holding a crying in-fant for what seems to be an eternity. In Jesus, God has given his people his grace. Jesus is full of grace (John 1:14). And what we need implicitly if not explicitly is for Jesus’ grace to be in accord with his stature. If he isn’t fully God, then his grace is limited, much like Indiana Jones’ pistol. But if he is fully God, as Scripture teaches, then his grace is as powerful and eternal as he is. When faced with need and sin, we want to know — need to know — that God is levying maximum grace on our behalf. In the full deity of Jesus, we have such grace.
The Full Deity of the Holy Spirit and Maximum Fellowship
Every once in a while my sons will receive a letter from a state senator. Usually, it is to congratulate them on an academic achievement. Typed on heavyweight paper the text runs across an intricate wa-termark, and the Senate crest is at the top of the stationery. The whole letter is in black ink except the signature which is scrawled instead in thick blue lines. Initially, we were amazed that a state senator would sign his letters to elementary school kids, that is, until we received more than one letter. When we compared the letters, it was clear that the signature was exactly the same on both in exactly the same place on the page. What we had thought was a senator’s handwritten signature was actually the work of a sophisticated inkjet printer. Nevertheless, it was thoughtful that someone in the senator's office printed out the letters to send, even if, as we assume, he never saw them. Is this not exactly what we think about the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the presence of God in us, with us. But do we believe that the Holy Spirit is fully God with us or instead do we unwittingly assume that the Ho-ly Spirit is the form letter of a God who is too busy, though well-intentioned?
Scripture explicitly says that our fellowship with Almighty God is in the Holy Spirit who is fully God.5 The world, the flesh, and a host of demons work together to convince the average Christian that God is far away, impotent, and unconcerned. But this is simply not the case. God is near and with every Christian in the fullness of deity. Each Christian has the maximum presence of God with them because the Holy Spirit is no less God than the Son or the Father. What comfort we have in the fullness of God who will never leave us. When we face the loneliness and desperation that marks the Christian life we need this kind of arsenal backing up the presence of God. We need to know that God himself is with us, not just his summer intern.
Circling Back Around
Do you see now how to drive away pernicious practical atheism from our daily lives? The light of God’s revelation, especially the Trinity, burns off the mist of confusion and error in common belief and practice. Oppositely, when we fail to appreciate God in all his glory we experience atrophied joy in our lives. Press to know and savor God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — and rejoice as only a Christian can in whatever circumstances you find yourself.
1. Ecumenical Creeds, Reformed Creeds and Confessions, Augustine, Calvin, Owen, Edwards…
2. See the Athanasian Creed, or Athanasius’s work, On the Incarnation.
3. John Owen’s masterful work, Communion with God, in volume 2 of his works is a full explication of this idea and where I got the idea for this brief treatment.
4. A line of thinking from which most Trinitarian heresies have sprung.
5. 2 Cor. 13:14; Acts 5:3, 4.