The Trinity and the New Atheists

What in the world does the Trinity have to do with engaging someone who rejects Christianity? Okay, I have to admit that thought never crossed my mind until I read Reeves’ book. In chapter 5 he talks about the “New Atheism” and references Christopher Hitchens. I was personally fond of Hitchens. I was drawn to his utter honesty about God. Hitchens and others moved past denying God’s existence to arguing that the existence of God would be a very bad thing. They were not atheists but “antitheists.” It’s like the movie "Spinal Tap" with the amp turned up to eleven!

Reeves quotes Hitchens from his book, God is Not Great:

I think it would be rather awful if it was true. If there was a permanent, total, round-the clock divine supervision and invigilation of everything you did, you would never have a waking moment or sleeping moment when you weren’t being watched and controlled and supervised by some celestial entity from the moment of your conception to the moment of your death…It would be like living in North Korea. (p.108)

In response, Reeves makes a case for the existence of God by actually agreeing with Hitchens:

For Hitchens, God is the Ruler, and so must by definition be a Stalin-in-the-sky, a Big Brother. And who in their right mind would ever want such a being to exist? In other words, the antitheist’s problem is not so much with the existence of God as with the character of God. He will write and fight against the existence of God because he is repelled by the thought of that sort of being. That God is not great.

But the triune God is not that God. Hitchens, clearly, had it in his head that God is fundamentally The Ruler, The One in Charge, characterized by “supervision and invigilation.” The picture changes entirely, though, if God is fundamentally the most kind and loving Father, and only ever exercises his rule as who he is—as a Father. In that case, living under his roof is not like living in North Korea at all, but like living in the household of the sort of caring father Hitchens himself wished for. (p. 109)

As Reeves later goes on to write, most people who reject God are like Hitchens. They rightly reject an image of God that is not rooted in Scripture. I would imagine that there are many professing Christians, too, who struggle to love God and trust him in their daily lives. They have shifted their understanding from God being a loving Father who oversees and cares for them to a Ruler who is playing capricious games with their lives.

I am reading my Bible a bit differently these days. I am thankful that God is my Father!

 

1 Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Delighting in the Trinity

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. John 17:24-26

A friend recently recommended Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith written by Michael Reeves and published by IVP Academic. My friend recommended this because I had been searching for books on the doctrine of the Trinity, looking for something that was going to bring this doctrine down to street level.

After about four or five books, I had almost given up. Most of the books I found were rather scholastic in nature. Each one was highly academic and seemingly sophisticated but hardly relevant. Then I downloaded the Kindle version of Reeves’ book to read on my Galaxy Note 8. I love my tablet and the S Pen that allows me to highlight text and go back for a quick cruise through the high points. I counted about 95 highlights in what is a surprisingly short read for such a heady topic!

Reeves contends that unless you understand the doctrine of the Trinity, you can’t begin to understand the Christian faith or live the Christian life. For anyone, that is a bold statement for what seems like a fairly obscure doctrine. Hear it for yourself from Reeves,

“God is love”: those three words could hardly be more bouncy. They seem lively, lovely and as warming as a crackling fire. But “God is a Trinity”? No, hardly the same effect: that just sounds cold and stodgy. All quite understandable, but the aim of this book is to stop the madness. Yes, the Trinity can be presented as a fusty and irrelevant dogma, but the truth is that God is love because God is a Trinity. (page 9)

The rest of the book is a litany of wonderful turns of phrase, warm quotes from theologians of old, and priceless application that brings to life the reality that the Triune God is the only true and loving God. Here is just one more quote,

Such are the problems with non-triune gods and creation. Single-person gods, having spent eternity alone, are inevitably self-centered beings, and so it becomes hard to see why they would ever cause anything to exist. Wouldn’t the existence of a universe be an irritating distraction for the god whose greatest pleasure is looking in a mirror? Everything changes when it comes to the Father, Son and Spirit. Here is a God who is not essentially lonely but who has been loving for all eternity as the Father has loved the Son in the Spirit. Loving others is not a strange or novel thing for this God at all; it is at the root of who he is. (page 40-41)

I won’t spoil the book for you. Go get it yourself and enjoy!

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.