When you hear the word “theology,” what comes to mind?
Theology seems to be something academics study in their ivory towers; most people assume that theology is an arcane field, perhaps entirely irrelevant, but certainly irrelevant to their lives. And yet, as the “study of God,” everyone has a theology. Everyone has some idea about who God is (or, in the case of atheists, is not), and shapes their view of God and themselves accordingly.
Theology’s bad reputation is often deserved yet tragically unfortunate, because good, solid Biblical theology can help us ground our understanding of God and ourselves and how we are to serve Him.
The great revelation about the nature of God in the New Testament is God’s relational unity. In the New Testament, the Father is God, the Word is Jesus the Son and He is God, and the Holy Spirit is God (John 1:1, 14, 18, 2 Peter 1:21). And yet God is one (James 2:19)! For generations this mystery has baffled people; how could God be one yet three? He cannot be one God in three manifestations, since the Father and the Son make unique witnesses (John 8:17-18); He cannot be one “full” God and two “lesser” gods, since the fullness of Godhead dwelt in Jesus in bodily form, and He is given the honor of being the Creator along with the Father (John 1:1-3, Romans 1:25, Colossians 2:9). So how can God be one? He is one in substance/being, essence, nature, purpose, will, eternality, and character; as expressed in John 17:20-23, the Father is in the Son as the Son is in the Father, and they are one. They are one in relational unity: individual Persons yet so connected and unified that we speak of God in the singular!
God’s nature as one in relational unity allows us to better understand God, ourselves, and what we seek out of life. Even though the idea of the Trinity may seem strange to people it is the only way God can be Himself as revealed in Scripture: God is love (1 John 4:8). To love demands an object; if God is one person, He must be the ultimate narcissist (loving Himself) or insufficient in and of Himself, needing something to love. But when we understand God is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, we see how God is love within Himself.
God told us that He has made us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). From the beginning it has not been good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18); we yearn for relationship and companionship with other people. In marriage we seek that special relationship with the one also made in God’s image who is complementary to us; the two become one flesh, and they produce offspring with which they can also share in relationship (Genesis 2:24).
Such is not coincidental! God has demonstrated His divine nature through humans whom He made in His image (Romans 1:19-20): as God is one in relationship, so mankind made in His image seeks after relationship. God shared love within Himself, and made the creation to love it and share in relationship with humanity who is God’s “offspring” (Acts 17:28). We humans keep searching for what we feel is missing in our lives; we only truly find it when we are restored in our relationship with God our Creator through Jesus the Christ (John 17:20-23, Romans 5:6-11), and then to be in communion with our fellow people of God, to be one with each other as God is one within Himself (John 17:20-23, 1 Corinthians 12:12-28).
Theology need not be dry and arcane; theology ought to be quite relevant to our lives! We are who we are and seek what we seek because God made us in His image; as He is one in relational unity, so we are really seeking relational unity with Him and with our fellow people (Acts 17:27, Ephesians 2:11-18). Let us trust in the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, the Three in One relational unity, grow in that relationship, and maintain our communion with our fellow people of God!
Ethan R. Longhenry