When we think of the Trinity, we tend to think of systematic and historical theology: ancient councils, obscure debates, and dangerous heresies. But what difference does the Trinity make in our ministry today? What does the Trinity tells us about the character of God and the character of ministry on his behalf?
I sat down to ask those questions of two professors of divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. Robert Smith Jr. passionately calls his students to find the intratrinitarian presence in the passages they preach. "I must put Trinitarian spectacles on every time I look at the text," he told me in this interview. "God never acts outside his Trinitarian nature."
But ministry today often breaks down into what Smith calls "trinitarian turf wars." Some churches pride themselves on being Spirit-led. But others make a priority of preaching expositional messages centered on Christ. Must we choose? Is it even possible to neglect the Holy Spirit in our ministry? Listen to the interview to hear Smith describe the role of the Holy Spirit as public relations expert for Jesus Christ.
Graham Cole, Anglican professor of divinity at Beeson, observes a difference in theology we confess and theology we practice. As he explains in this interview, we're tempted to become "functionally Unitarian" in our prayer. But the Trinity truly sets Christianity apart from other attempts to describe God. Cole has studied Islam for 30 years, and the Muslim message of submission differs fundamentally from the good news of Trinity, which tells us God is relational on the inside. Cole goes on to describe the character of "love-led" Christian ministry.
As the interview concludes, Smith explains the difference it makes when someone at Beeson Divinity School starts to really get the Trinity in his preaching classes. Likewise, Cole describes the influence of the Trinity on his courses about prayer. As Cole explains, "Our prayers really tell people what our theology is."
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Smith, Cole, Hansen on Trinitarian Ministry
Collin Hansen serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of of Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey With the New Calvinists, and co-author with John Woodbridge of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir. He earned an MDiv at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and an undergraduate degree in journalism and history from Northwestern University. He previously worked as an associate editor for Christianity Today magazine, co-edited Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism, and co-edits the Cultural Renewal series with Tim Keller. He and his wife belong to Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and he serves on the advisory board of Beeson Divinity School. You can follow him on Twitter.