I wrote this several years ago at another blog that I write (James Swan’s Beggars All Reformation and Apologetics.
We don’t know all the answers for our questions about pain and suffering in this life, the book of Job gives us some, Romans 8:18-25 gives us some more information; with the rest of Scripture; but the only final and fully revealed answer that has been revealed to us by God is the incarnation of Jesus Christ – that God in Christ entered into our pain and suffering.
Incarnation, Atonement, and Trinity
“The Maker of the universe,
As Man for man was made a curse.
The claims of Law which He had made,
Unto the uttermost He paid.
His holy fingers made the bough,
Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow.
The nails that pierced His hands were mined
In secret places He designed.
He made the forest whence there sprung
The tree on which His body hung.
He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.
The sky that darkened o’er His head,
By Him above the earth was spread.
The sun that hid from Him it’s face
By His decree was poised in space.
The spear which spilled His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which His form was laid
Was hewn in rocks His hands had made.
The throne on which He now appears
Was His from everlasting years.
But a new glory crowns His brow
And every knee to Him shall bow.
The Maker of the Universe”
I love this song! I love the doctrine and affections and emotion of this song! As Jonathan Edwards would say, “I love the sound doctrine that produces right affections and emotions.” It captures the truths of the incarnation, the Deity of Christ, His humility and love and willingness to suffer for us. The incarnation and suffering of the eternal Son of God points to the Trinity, “trinitas in unitas”, “three in one”, as Tertullian wrote. In Against Praxeas, chapter 3.
James White has written, “I love the Trinity! . . . upon reflection, we discover that the Trinity is the highest revelation God has made of Himself to His people. It is the capstone, the summit, the brightest star in the firmament of divine truths. . . God revealed this truth about Himself most clearly, and most irrefutably, in the incarnation itself, when Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on human flesh and walked among us.” (The Forgotten Trinity, pp. 13-14)
I agree; I love the song, because I love the Trinity, and I love the incarnation and atonement, and how these truths point us to the God of the Bible, that Christians know; the only God. These truths are beautiful because Truth is beautiful. God is beautiful because He is true. I love God because He first loved me! ( I John 4:10; 19)
God Himself is beautiful because of the perfection of His character and attributes and nature; and the David spoke of “mediating on and beholding the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4). The Trinity is beautiful because it proclaims that God is one and shows God as loving relationship from all eternity; uncreated, eternal, Sovereign.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1)
“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,” (Colossians 2:9)
“. . . Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. “For although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
“God, . . .
in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
. . .
And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says,
“AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”
. . .
But of the Son He says,
“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,
AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.”
(Hebrews 1:1- 3, 6, 8.)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. ( John 1:1-5)
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the one and only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
In dealing with evangelism with Muslims, one must be prepared in the deep truths of the doctrines of the Deity of Christ, the incarnation, and the Trinity.
Some good books on the Trinity:
1. James White. The Forgotten Trinity. Bethany House Publishers, 1998.
2. Robert Bowman. Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Baker Books, 1989.
3. Timothy George. Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? Zondervan, 2002. (While I disagree with Timothy George’s recent ecumenism with Roman Catholicism, this book is very good for the theological issues in dealing with Islam.)
4. John Piper. “Contending for Christ Contra Mundum: Exile and Incarnation in the Life of Athanasius”, in Contending For Our All. Crossway Books, 2006. Piper’s chapter on Athanasius speaks to sound doctrine, church history, apologetics, contextualization, hermeneutics, and he addresses the emerging church issue. Highly recommended.
The “Trinitas -Unitas God”, “three in One” God is the Sovereign Creator God who is and was relationship from all eternity past. Amazing! Awesome!
The Trinity answers the issue of longing for that connection of relationship with the living God; He is relationship; love from all eternity; Lover, Beloved, and Love in relationship; Father, Son, and Spirit.
The Trinity and incarnation also enters us into answering the issue of suffering and why God has ordained that suffering and evil happen.
Dorothy Sayers, the Anglican writer, wrote an interesting piece, seeking to answer the issue of why God allowed evil to come into the world. Reformed theology speaks of “God ordaining all things” – and when it comes to evil entering the world, we understand “ordaining” as “deciding that it would happen” (Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28; Ephesians 1:11; Romans 9:22-23, Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6; Lam. 3:37-38; Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28-29) while at the same time not being the one who does the evil. (I John 1:5; Hab. 1:13; Isaiah 6; Titus 1:2) As John Piper has written, “God is not a sinner.” While some of Sayer’s statement is not theologically precise, and some is not the best wording; I still think it captures a good apologetic truth for the skeptic and a strength for a young believer growing in theology:
“For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation and defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worth while.” (Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? New York: Harcourt, Brace and Col, 149, p. 4; cited in Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions. Here’s Life Publishers, 1980, p. 153-154.
My Iranian friend Kamyar, who was my second Farsi teacher in 1994, said this to me:
“The two most amazing things about Christianity are:
1. That God, who we were taught in Islam, was far off and aloof, became a man like us, clothed Himself in flesh.”
2. That there is a way to be saved from sin and know it and have assurance of it.
“دو چیز خیلی عالی است در مسیحیت
1. که خدا، که ما در اسلام تعلیم یافتیم که خیلی دور از ما می ماند، انسان شد مثل ما شد، و خود را جسم پوشید،
و 2. که یک راهی را وجود دارد برای نجات از گناه و می توانیم آن راه را بدانیم، و اطمینان داشته باشیم