Social Interaction and Exegetical Trinitarianism
I’m a reluctant extrovert, thrilled to talk to others long after they’re thrilled to talk to me yet intimidated to walk into a room full of strangers and social acquaintances. What I really want is a glance at a social key before parties as a way to find out everything I need to know about folks so I can better enjoy my conversations with them. You see, I love peeking at guests lists in advance so I can figure out what conversation topics to bring up or avoid, whichever the case may be.
But there are those times in which social keys and guest lists are simply unavailable, leaving me the unnerving task of figuring out where people “fit” as I’m talking to them1. You may be curious how a reluctant extrovert like me overcomes such crippling social anxiety. I do have a few secrets. The first is to pay attention to names. The same last names, unless they are Smith or Jones, serve as a signal to me that the John Kramer whose hand you just shook is probably the husband to the Rebecca Kramer you met by the punch bowl. Then there are common attributes. Big talkers, big noses, and wall-flowers tend to run in families. Sometimes, family members are so clearly related by how they look that you peg them as related before you meet any of them. Then there are common mannerisms that related people often share, like a way they stand, a flip of the hand, or the same scowl when politics are brought up in conversation. Lastly, how others respond to people can you tell you a ton about them. The boss, the star athlete, and the prom queen all receive preferential social treatment even if completely unspoken.
Now, before I leave you to excel in greater social competency2 I’m going to seek to explain the real reason for a discourse about hypothetical party attendance. I want to propose that my social diagnostics have everything to do with how you might engage with Trinitarian orthodoxy, especially the deity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.3 The difficulty, if we’re going to call it that, is that the Bible does not provide us with a Trinitarian social key concerning the deity of Jesus and the Spirit, even though the Bible, at the same time, clearly teaches that very thing. Yes we can find such statements in our creedal statements but what about in the Bible? I want to suggest that the Bible expects you to engage with Jesus and the Holy Spirit through the ongoing narrative of redemptive history, much like we engage with a stranger in a social setting.4
Let’s then employ our same social deductive skills that we discussed above to figure out that John and Rebecca were married and that Jack was the corporate CEO because everyone laughed a little too loudly at his bad jokes. If we begin with names, do we find names uniquely applied to God also applied to Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Yes, everywhere.5 Well, then what about attributes? In the pages of Scripture do we find attributes solely assigned and uniquely possessed by God also assigned and possessed by Jesus and Holy Spirit? Yes, clearly.6 Now, do we also see works that only God can perform also performed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Yes, without question.7 Lastly, as we consider the responses of men and women, do we find Scripture assigning worship to Jesus and Holy Spirit as if they were completely and wholly God? Yes, without monotheistic reservation.8 These things being true, then we should affirm and trust in the full deity of Jesus and Holy Spirit, not just because we read it in our systematic theology textbooks, but because we have met the Persons of the Godhead in the Bible and found both Jesus and the Holy Spirit to bear the unequivocal marks of God Almighty.
1. Yes, I can be over analytical about social interactions. Welcome to pastoral ministry!
2. Or pity me for how much thought I put into such things.
3. No one doubts the deity of the Father for what should be obvious reasons. But history is replete with heretics denying the deity of Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit.
4. So, for example, no book of the Bible is a pure systematic theology, but clear systematic theology can and should be developed from the Bible.
5. For a sampling, see Isa. 6:3-8; John 12:41; Acts 28:25; 1 John 5:20; Acts 5:3-4.
6. For a sampling, see John 1:1; Isa. 9:6; John 2:24-25; 1 Cor. 2:10-11.
7. For a sampling, see Col. 1:16; Gen. 1:2.
8. For a sampling, see Mat. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14.