Matters of Creed III: Triune Truths
Years ago, I attended an all-expense paid conference for United Methodist clergy women from across the United States. I was excited to travel to sunny Florida with a female colleague from my home state. The conference was organized by one of the General Boards of the United Methodist church, led by one of the General Secretaries and several UMC Bishops. I will not mention specific Boards or Bishops as I do not want to cast an unfavorable light on any United Methodists.
The conference was well-organized including worship services, informational talks, times of prayer and breakout sessions. I had no criticism of the conference, but by the end of the first day my colleague did. She observed, “This entire day no one has spoken the name of Jesus.” I noticed too. The prayers, liturgy, music, preaching, talks, and conversation were void of any understanding of the Trinity. We prayed to the Creator God or the Sustainer God. We lifted up the “God of Many Names” and the “Mystery Beyond Our Understanding”. While these statements about God were factual, they were incomplete. I wondered why we were not praying to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? “Maybe we are making too much out of this,” I told my friend.
The next day, I tuned in, looking for Trinitarian references to God. There were none. For the entire three days of the conference I found no evidence. I was not clear who we were worshipping. That is the first time in my ministry career I realized the importance of speaking the truth of the Triune God.
The ancient creeds define God for believers for all time. Our theology is rooted and grounded in scripture and born out of the tradition of the early Christian community. The Councils solidified the Trinity and legitimized the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.
Regardless of whether you are a United Methodist, member of another Christian denomination, or non-denominational, your understanding of Jesus (Christology) matters. Believers must remain alert. Stay aware of theological language in the curriculum you study, the worship you attend, the prayers you pray, the liturgy you recite, the sermons you hear and the songs you sing. Listen and look for the naming of God as Father, Son Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit.
In a former church, I oversaw the ministry to children. Our church’s Vacation Bible School was one of the most popular in the entire area. VBS was an enormous outreach to neighborhoods of children who did not attend our church, or any church for that matter. Our VBS leadership team annually purchased popular curriculum packages from Christian publishers. These packages were well done – fun for the children, with creative crafts, memorable skits, energetic games, thematic snacks, and lively music. After the second year, I noticed something was missing. The curriculum provided a rich understanding of God from an Old Testament perspective, immersed in Biblical history and helpful truths for living. There was encouragement to be strong in God, explore God’s creation, build resilience, respect others and be kind---many essential truths for good living. Grounding children in the rich history of the Old Testament is important, but I was concerned there was no reference to Jesus Christ. We were not introducing children to Jesus or even exploring the New Testament. When the third year of curriculum was released and my leadership team reviewed it, I announced that we would find a different publishing company. In good conscience, I could not spend another summer without telling the stories of Jesus.
Parents, pay attention to the curriculum your church utilizes to teach your children the faith. Are the writers and teachers introducing children to the truth of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Are they meeting Jesus? Or are they meeting a God of moral teachings, mystery, and goodness absent the power of Jesus Christ for redemption, salvation, and life?
Stand firm and hold fast to what we believe about the Trinity. Resist the temptation to make Jesus into a good man who lived a long time ago, another moral teacher, a human prophet who died a tragic death. Do not allow the truth of Jesus as the pre-existent Son of God who is a mighty Savior and Lord of the universe to be less than the ancient creeds proclaim. Adhere to the Triune truths of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.