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The Face of the Trinity
The Trinitarian Essential for the Whole of God and Life
Chapter 10 The Trinitarian Key for the Whole of Life
Therefore, consider carefully how you listen.
Luke 8:18, NIV
Pay attention closely to what you hear from me.
The church in Sardis must have been shocked when challenged to “Wake up!” because their highly-regarded life was found not to be “whole [complete, pleroo] in the perceptual-interpretive framework and lens of the Trinity” (Rev 3:1-2). Their condition should not surprise us since it commonly exists today in church theology and practice—leaving its persons and relationships needing, searching and struggling for wholeness.
The search for wholeness in life and what the whole of life is continues to be an elusive pursuit in the entire human context, as well as in theology and practice. The fragmentary results of this diversely engaged process (even in science) have evaded a definitive answer to the question of Goethe’s Faust: “What holds together the universe in the innermost?” With the sum of knowledge (even theological) accumulated at this stage of life, one would reasonably assume that the whole would emerge or at least be apparent by now. Perhaps Albert Einstein clarifies and corrects the pursuit of the whole of life, notably in theology and practice, by the simplicity and thus genius of his approach “to regard old questions from a new angle.”
A new angle indeed, but the problem in searching for wholeness is complicated by what Jesus made clearly evident:
One half of the problem is “what would bring you wholeness…is hidden from your eyes” (Lk 19:42, NIV); the other half of the problem revealed, as Jesus longed for persons and relationships to have their need to be whole fulfilled together, is that fact that “you were not willing to experience this outcome—not what you really wanted” (Lk 13:34).
In other words, the limits and bias of this problem not only complicate but prevent knowing what the whole of life is and understanding wholeness in life.
Various conversations have taken place in the church and academy about wholeness and being whole. Yet, with the knowledge accumulated and collated, I am not aware of deeper understanding in theology and practice emerging in essential reality from this conversation. Perhaps this calls for a new angle, but one that is not constrained by the problem of our common limits and bias.
Bob Dylan, the 2016 Nobel Prize laureate in literature, described in his early poetry the deteriorating human condition in “The Time They Are A-Changin’” and asked how long will it take for persons and peoples to recognize this in “Blowin’ in the Wind.” He didn’t have essential answers at that stage of his life, until later when in a pivotal juncture he decided “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking.” His new way of thinking helped him understand the primary issue for all of us: “When You Gonna Wake Up”—“when we gonna wake up, when we gonna make a change.” Of course, Dylan’s new perspective and lens will continue to change (i.e. deepen) as his new life unfolds further and deeper in wholeness.
Discovering the essential (not virtual) whole of the new creation necessitates by its nature an epistemic field and hermeneutic lens that go beyond what are commonly used—even beyond Einstein’s “new angle” to the more that Dylan implies in “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking.” This is the distinguishing issue of John 3:3-12 in our theology and the new wine in our practice (Lk 5:33-39). Both of these interactions by Jesus center on the need in our theology and practice to make the fundamental change from the secondary of the quantitative from outer in to the primary of the qualitative from inner out; they thus involve the penetrating issue of the integral change from the fragmentary knowledge in referential terms to the whole understanding of the relational terms composing the new creation. This defining change to the primary inner out of the qualitative and relational expands our epistemic field and opens our hermeneutic lens to behold the whole of life and the wholeness of persons and relationships in the new creation, and thereby to be in its essential reality.
The psalmist asked for “discernment [biyn] that I may understand” (Ps 119:125, NIV). Accordingly, how we discern will determine our understanding. The psalmist’s concern is about right or wrong, true or false (v. 128). This discernment has been commonly distorted by the seductive challenge in self-determination from the beginning to have discernment for “knowing good and evil” (ra‘, bad, of inferior quality, the opposite of good, Gen 3:5). The distortion of good or bad, true or false, right or wrong—which also happens by narrowing them down to mere ethics in referential terms—occurs when the real issue essential to their understanding is not the basis for defining and determining each of these basic terms in matters of life. The essential difference for each of these sets of terms is based on the difference between ‘whole and reduced’. Good, true and right are determined by what is whole, or else they are not essentially good, true and right—only reductions of them, however virtually good, true and right they may seem. Discerning whole or reduced requires understanding wholeness and reductionism, which is neither understood nor recognized under the sweeping yet subtle assumption that our biyn has not been reduced—the assumption generated from the beginning.
The inherent issue of good (tob) was addressed by the Creator for persons and their relationship “not to be apart” from wholeness but to be whole in the Creator’s likeness (Gen 2:18). When those persons and their relationship together were whole, their biyn discerned their wholeness from the primary inner out so that “they were both naked and they felt no shame” (2:25). When their persons and relationship were reduced—in spite of the assumption to the contrary—their biyn could only observe from outer in the secondary of their distinction as naked and not to be whole (3:6). This difference is simply indispensable to distinguish the issue at stake here. Biyn includes to observe, perceive, pay attention to, heed, all of which we basically depend on our senses to provide. Thus, the biyn we use will determine the understanding we get. Human senses, including the function of the brain, are problematic both for what is discerned or perceived and for understanding the whole of these perceptions or observations. Understanding the whole emerges from the process of putting together all the correct pieces in a puzzle in order to understand the whole (the process of syniemi), whereby one can claim having whole understanding (synesis, as Paul did, Col 2:2).
The limits, and also constraints, of human senses are what Jesus exposed (Mt 13:13-15). By speaking in parables, Jesus essentially is illuminating the new angle and way of thinking needed to regard the old questions of human wholeness. This new angle and thinking integrally provides not partial understanding, skewed by human assumptions and biases, but opens up the perceptual lens (biyn) to discern the epistemic field and process needed to integrate what is revealed to understand the whole (syniemi) for the whole understanding (synesis) of the wholeness of both God and all human life. Even the first disciples were found lacking this syniemi because of the limits of their epistemic field and constraints of their hermeneutic lens (or biyn, Mk 8:17); and the syniemi they didn’t engage commonly continues to be lacking today among the followers of Jesus.
One unspoken explanation for this lack implied in the thinking of many Christians today is that the embodied Word is no longer with us; so we are at a disadvantage compared to the opportunities the first disciples had—a comparison implying a deficit condition that limits what we can know and understand without the embodied Word. That would be true in quantitative terms, but then that would narrow down our theology and practice to the realm of physics, which in effect many Christians do. However, and this is the essential reality that our biyn has to understand, though the embodied Word is not present, the palpable Word is both vulnerably present and relationally involved to provide the trinitarian key in the syniemi necessary for the synesis of uncommon wholeness. In essential reality, what unfolded before Jesus’ ascension unfolds much further and deeper in post-ascension, despite the facts of the church’s life commonly not supporting this reality.
So, at this stage of life for the church and its persons and relationships, does Jesus weep also for his followers who don’t know what gives them wholeness? And Bob Dylan also wonders “when we gonna wake up, when we gonna make a change,” because we can’t discern our condition with understanding “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
The psalmist further understood that “The unfolding of your relational words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Ps 119:130). That is, this enlighted understanding (in contrast to enlightenment, and contrary to the Enlightenment) is the discernment of child-persons, who are neither limited nor constrained by the assumptions and biases of “the wise and learned,” as Jesus highlighted (Lk 10:21). This keeps pointing to the key that apparently often also eludes our learning.
We learn (or at least observe) from the beginning that in human discernment many things (even important ones) engage persons from the outer in—amplified to the present by the technological age. We can also understand (or at least have knowledge of) from the beginning that only one essential involves the whole person: when connection is integrally experienced from the inner-out depth of one’s person and thereby made with another person(s) on this level of relational connection—which even triggers positive electrical activity in the brain. The whole person connected in relationship together in the wholeness of the participating persons composes what is essential for persons and relationships to be in wholeness together. Yet, this wholeness is uncommon to human development from the beginning, in spite of the evolutionary process, or more likely because of the survival of the fittest. Even the valuable advances in neuroscience to understand the human brain do not get to the core, the innermost central to connect the person with one’s whole in the primary inner out, and thus is insufficient to connect persons and relationships in wholeness together—no matter how much oxytocin (the so-called love hormone) is triggered by the brain.
The pivotal issue in all this is the use of a common wholeness that does not discern and cannot distinguish the uncommon wholeness essential to God. The use of common wholeness fails to understand what the psalmist illuminated in “righteousness and peace as wholeness kiss each other” (Ps 85:10). They kiss because righteousness and wholeness are integral to the whole and uncommon God. God’s righteousness is the relational expression that can be counted on in relationship (even legally, sedaqah) to be the whole of who, what and how God is—constituting the wholeness of the Trinity. The wholeness of the Trinity is the immutable uncommon wholeness that Jesus gives in contrary distinction to variable common wholeness (Jn 14:27). It is nonnegotiable then that uncommon wholeness is what needs to distinguish the church and its persons and relationships in order to be whole in uncommon likeness of the Trinity. Only uncommon wholeness integrally involves persons and their relationships in their primary inner out, so to be congruent in the essential ontology and function in likeness of the wholeness of the person-al inter-person-al Trinity.
Therefore, the irreplaceable key to any discussion, composition, construction and development of wholeness in all of life (both in the church and in the world) is Trinitarian, only distinguished integrally whole and uncommon. And distinguishing the trinitarian key in relationship-specific terms, who is present and involved to unfold this wholeness to essential relational conclusion, is the person of the Spirit.
The Spirit is associated with God’s power and salvific activities, but the primary significance often minimalized is the presence and involvement of the Trinity in relationship together. This primacy involves not only the economy of the Trinity but necessarily includes the Trinity’s immanence, the ontology of whom includes the Holy Spirit. How the Spirit is identified and understood defines and determines who and what God is (cf. Num 11:17,25-29; Isa 63:11-14). This is the identity of the triune God who is whole-ly revealed in the incarnation. Yet, the question may be raised, is the function of YHWH’s Spirit distinguished more than a function in the Second Testament to define the profile of the Spirit’s subject-person? Isaiah 63:10 reveals that the Holy Spirit “grieved” just as Paul made definitive the relational involvement of the Spirit for the wholeness of the church and its persons and relationships (Eph 4:20-30). This affective relational involvement distinguishes the subject-person of the Holy Spirit as well as constitutes the ontology of the Trinity in the person of the Spirit—the relational ontology of the whole-ly Trinity. Therefore, who and what is the God present and involved depend on how God is. How is distinguished in the First Testament yet whole-ly revealed in the Second Testament; and it is the Spirit who determines how the whole-ly Trinity continues to be present and involved.
The righteousness expressing the whole who, what and how of the Trinity’s presence and involvement post-ascension is constituted mainly by the Spirit, though not solely, as if to fragment the Trinity’s wholeness. This is the relational purpose for the relational outcome of wholeness to unfold ‘already’ and its relational conclusion ‘not yet’ that Jesus disclosed whole-ly in relational terms. Just prior to his ascension Jesus told his church family “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), which was synonymous with being baptized by Jesus (Mt 3:11; Mk 1:8; Lk 3:16; Jn 1:33). The full, complete significance of this baptism commonly has been lost, ignored or narrowed down. For example, Pentecostals and charismatics narrow down the baptism of the Spirit to limited functions, which they tend to use as distinctions for identifying “better” Christians—making evident Jesus’ paradigm, the Spirit you use will be the Christians you get.
For the full significance of the baptism of the Spirit, we have to go back to Jesus, the pleroma (fullness, wholeness) of God who sent the Spirit. The full significance of this baptism first emerged when Jesus shook-up the status quo in his exchange with Nicodemus (Jn 3:3-8). To be baptized by the Spirit is to be born anew by the Spirit, and this all converges with being baptized into Christ for the old to die and the new to rise up to be whole in ontology and function (Rom 6:3-4). Therefore, the Spirit is present and involved for nothing less and no substitutes but to constitute the wholeness of persons and relationships, that is, the uncommon wholeness for the whole of life.
The uncommon, however, is often not clearly distinguished by the church, in spite of many references to the term ‘holy’ existing in the church. As the holy God—the Holy One, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity—the essential reality of the who, what and how presented in the human context to disclose the face of the Trinity can only be uncommon. Anything less of the uncommon and any substitutes from the common no longer compose the essential reality of the whole and uncommon Trinity, the whole-ly Trinity. The face of the Trinity is uncommon to the realms of physics and metaphysics, and thus uncommon to the entire common human context. It is not surprising, therefore, that the essential reality of the Trinity’s face is commonly considered virtual and/or presented in virtual terms; this exists with the exception of the face of Jesus Christ—in whose face happens to be the essential reality of the presence and involvement of the pleroma of God, the glory of the Trinity (2 Cor 4:6; Col 1:19). Nevertheless, many of Jesus’ followers today still don’t know the whole of his person, just as his first disciples didn’t know the embodied Word (Jn 14:9). In post-ascension the full 3-D profile of the Trinity’s face is commonly fragmented by misguided practices that reduce the uncommon person of the Spirit (cf. Jn 14:17), who has been rendered in virtual terms and augmented realities at the expense of the wholeness essential for all life, both the Trinity’s and ours.
The pivotal juncture distinguishing the Trinity’s presence and involvement certainly came with the Son embodying, enacting and disclosing the person-al inter-person-al Trinity. In post-ascension the most palpable presence and involvement of the whole and uncommon Trinity unfolds with the Spirit distinguished only as subject-person, who further enacts and discloses the Trinity’s presence and involvement as Jesus’ relational replacement (Jn 16:5-7, 13-15). The Spirit’s person will be involved in reciprocal relationship (not unilateral) with us just as Jesus’ person was with his followers. Moreover, since the Spirit enacts the whole Trinity, the Son is also present whereby the palpable Word in the Spirit continues to be present and involved. As the Spirit of truth (Jn 14:17), the Spirit further extends the embodied Truth in post-ascension as the Spirit of Truth (Jn 15:26; 16:13-15). The Spirit of Truth and the Word of Truth are inseparable subject-persons together as the ontological One (the person-al Trinity) and the relational Whole (the inter-person-al Trinity), so that, as Paul made definitive, “the Lord is the Spirit” and the relational outcome of the Trinity’s involvement “comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:16,18)—inseparable just as the Son disclosed between him and the Father. Therefore, in post-ascension the Word is always palpable in the Spirit, and the palpable Word’s presence and involvement always include the palpable presence and involvement of the Father, who together in uncommon wholeness distinguish the palpable presence and involvement of the person-al inter-person-al Trinity. The Spirit indeed is the post-ascension key to the Trinity’s wholeness and also for our wholeness.
In the relationship-specific purpose and function of the Spirit, the Spirit’s relational involvement with us converges with Jesus’ baptism in order for us to be transformed to whole ontology and function in uncommon likeness of the Trinity (Rom 8:11; 2 Cor 3:18). Then the Spirit’s involvement with us centers on our wholeness together (1 Cor 12:7,12-13) to unfold the essential relational outcome of whole relationship together as the Trinity’s new creation family, which is also the Trinity’s uncommon temple (Rom 8:15-16; Eph 2:14-22).
The wholeness of this transformation requires ongoing sanctification, which is composed not virtually in referential terms but essentially in whole relational terms only by trinitarian sanctification: the essential and thus indispensable relational process and irreplaceable relational outcome initiated by Jesus in the ek-eis reciprocating contextualization (Jn 17:15-17), in ongoing triangulation with the Spirit (Jn 15:26-27; 16:13) who brings the process of redemptive change from commonness to uncommonness to complete the wholeness of persons (Jn 16:7-11; 1 Cor 6:11; 2 Cor 3:17; Rom 8:5-14), and who constitutes the relational outcome of redemptive reconciliation for the wholeness of their relationships together in the trinitarian church family composing the Trinity’s uncommon temple (Eph 2:18,21-22; 1 Cor 3:16)—just as Jesus enacted and Paul clarified theologically for the church and all its persons and relationships to function in uncommon wholeness. Therefore, in post-ascension, trinitarian sanctification is the only ongoing means for the church and its persons and relationships to be distinguished from common wholeness, and also to grow and mature in uncommon wholeness; and the Spirit is the trinitarian key to this indispensable relational process and irreplaceable relational outcome (as in Paul’s challenge, Eph 4:3-4).
When the psalmist established “The unfolding of your relational word gives light” (Ps 119:130), this challenges any lack of relational clarity and significance in our theology and practice, perhaps encompassed by a fog of referential forms and shaping. The Word’s relational clarity and significance unfolded embodied by the vulnerable presence and relational involvement of the Word and is now further enacted by the Spirit to unfold the primacy of the essential relational outcome of wholeness and bring it to completion. The Spirit, inseparably with the palatable Word, is simply the trinitarian key to wholeness of all life.
Given the Spirit’s uncommon intimate presence and whole relational involvement, we need to understand neither to ascribe more to the Spirit than warranted nor to underestimate the Spirit. Both complicate the Spirit’s function with a distorted perception, which is analogous to a common lens that “cannot receive the Spirit because it neither sees his whole person nor knows him in wholeness” (as Jesus disclosed, Jn 14:17). Similar to how Einstein approached science with the simplicity of a new angle, the Spirit needs to be seen, known and embraced in the simplicity of the Spirit’s function—the simplicity of function that also should be neither idealized nor idolized. Accordingly, the Spirit we use will be the wholeness of the Trinity and of our churches with its persons and relationships we get, including for all life—as even “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of their wholeness together” (Rom 8:19).
The genius of the Spirit is not about the amount of knowledge (truth) he brings to the human context—as a know-it-all informational truth—whom Jesus said “will guide [lead, explain, instruct, hodegeo] you into all truth” (Jn 16:13). The Spirit’s genius involves his see-the-whole relational truth as the Spirit of Truth who functions in the simplicity of the following:
(1) to witness to (confirm) the essential reality of the embodied Truth (Jn 15:26) in whom was life (zoe not just bios) and the source of light for humanity (Jn 1:4, cf. Jn 3:19-21); and as the Truth’s relational replacement, (2) to further illuminate the wholeness essential of the trinitarian Truth (Jn 16:13-15, cf. 1 Cor 2:9-10), and in reciprocal relationship (3) to complete the transformation process with us that involves both the person’s mindset (interpretive lens, phroneō, Rom 8:5) and its basis, the persons’ perceptual-interpretive framework or worldview (phronēma, 8:6), in order to transform an outer-in quantitative mindset and a reduced phronēma fragmented by the secondary integrally by constituting the person with the qualitative interpretive lens (phroneō) in its whole interpretive framework (phronēma), which are both essential to be in “life [zoe] and peace [wholeness]” (cf. 1 Thes 5:19,23; 2 Thes 2:13)—that is, the qualitative zoe from inner out that integrates all the aspects of quantitative bios from outer in to be in wholeness; and in ongoing reciprocal relationship together, (4) to illuminate what is not commonly seen and light the process necessary for us to use our new qualitative interpretive lens and whole interpretive framework in order to put together the essential parts composing zoe-life in wholeness—the process of syniemi (as in Mk 8:17; Eph 5:17-18) resulting in the whole understanding (synesis, Eph 3:4) to constitute persons and relationships together as church family in whole ontology and function in likeness of the whole and uncommon Trinity (Col 1:9; 2:2, cf. 2 Tim 2:7).
The relational outcome of synesis from syniemi in reciprocal relationship with the Spirit’s genius also makes our qualitative phroneō and whole phronēma function in the genius of the Spirit, discerning (biyn) the whole of relational truth essential for both the Trinity and all life in uncommon likeness. This is the genius of the simple (Ps 119:130), the child-persons in contrast to “the wise and learned” who are unable to discern the whole (Lk 10:21).
In the beginning the triune God created all life, and the Word was with God to be the whole of God who later emerged from the uncommon to embody the face of the person-al inter-person-al Trinity in and beyond the realms of physics and metaphysics, thereby constituting the Trinity’s face in full profile as “Uncommon, uncommon, uncommon is the whole Trinity, who was, and is, and is to come” (Rev 4:8, NIV). In this improbable theological trajectory and on this intrusive relational path, the whole-ly (irreducibly whole and nonnegotiably uncommon) Trinity enacted the Trinity’s uncommon wholeness essential for all life to be whole in the Trinity’s likeness—as created in the beginning and by necessity newly created by the person-al inter-person-al Trinity. This is the gospel of wholeness that emerged and unfolded in the common context.
The gospel obviously has been proclaimed in various manners, forms and places. Certainly many who claim the gospel assume to know its essential composition and to understand its essential outcome. Yet, the truth of the whole gospel is known by less than this majority, just as Jesus lamented about his closest followers (Jn 14:9). Furthermore, the truth of the gospel of wholeness is understood in its essential relational outcome by a surprising fewer than many would expect, just as Paul exposed Peter in his performing a role (hypokrisis) with the truth of this gospel (Gal 2:11-14). It has been problematic, to say the least, in theology and practice to assume knowing the gospel; and it has been consequential to assume (as from the beginning) that the understanding of the gospel’s relational outcome has not been reduced of what is essential. From the beginning the referentialization of the Word from God (“Did God say…”) has been a pivotal problem distorting good-news words from God.
The reality is that the gospel we use is the relational outcome we get. Any gospel heard and received in referential language can only have a referential outcome. This was not the theological trajectory and relational path of the gospel that the Samaritan woman improbably experienced at the well with Jesus disclosing the Trinity’s strategic shift. This was, however, the outcome with which Peter struggled until his gospel became congruent with Jesus’ improbable theological trajectory and intrusive relational path, in order to determine his vulnerable involvement in reciprocal relationship together necessary to be whole. Since Paul experienced the gospel directly in relational language and terms (“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me…I am Jesus, whom you are…” (Acts 9:4-5), his gospel was and had entirely the relational outcome of the whole gospel: the dynamic of ‘nothing less and no substitutes’ making vulnerable the whole of the Trinity’s ontology and function in relational response to our condition to make whole our ontology and function in reciprocal relationship together in the Trinity’s new creation family. Many of Paul’s readers do not clearly understand Paul’s gospel—some even making a distinction between his and Jesus’ gospel—because their interpretive lens focuses on referential language in his theology for a referential outcome in his practice, consequently not understanding Paul’s relational language extending directly from Jesus’ relational language. And Jesus disclosed in relational terms the good news of the presence and involvement of the whole and uncommon Trinity, who is defined implicitly in Paul’s theology and determined explicitly his practice.
For Paul, this essential relational outcome was “the gospel of wholeness” (Eph 6:15), and anything less or any substitute was “a different gospel which is really no gospel at all” (Gal 1:6-7). On this relational basis and in response to this relational problem, the whole of Paul’s person and the whole in his theology and practice echoing Jesus in reciprocal relationship with the Spirit intensely fought both for (to be) the gospel of wholeness and its essential relational outcome for the church and its persons and relationships together in wholeness, and against (not to be) their reduction in any manner, shape and terms in theology and practice.
Paul fully understood when he identified ‘the gospel of wholeness’ that it was ongoingly challenged by and in conflict with reductionism. Therefore, the gospel of wholeness is qualified in this context by its ongoing contention with reductionism (Eph 6:10-18) and necessitates this unavoidable and nonnegotiable theology and practice: In contrast to what has become the conventional way of proclaiming the gospel, Paul defines in relational language the conjoint fight for the whole gospel and against reductionism, while in reciprocal involvement with the Spirit in triangulation (cf. navigation) with the situations and circumstances of human contextualization for the reciprocating contextualization ongoingly needed to be whole from inner out, to live in uncommon wholeness with qualitative and relational significance, and thereby to make whole the human condition, even as it may be reflected, reinforced or sustained in church and academy. Indispensable, and thus irreplaceable, for this theology and practice are both the strong view of sin as reductionism and the complete theological anthropology for persons in whole ontology and function to be what and who the Trinity seeks in compatible reciprocal relationship together. A gospel that does not vulnerably address the sin of reductionism with the essential relational outcome of whole ontology and function is an incomplete gospel at best, not whole but fragmentary. This outcome only unfolds from the full profile of the Face constituting the whole gospel (as Paul highlighted, 2 Cor 4:4,6), whose uncommon wholeness Paul claimed and thereby proclaimed for the wholeness of the church and its persons and relationships together.
It is a bad assumption to claim to know the identity of someone while lacking the full profile of their face. This is how stereotypes are created that claim to know the defining presence of a person and to understand the extent/nature of their involvement. This stereotypical assumption and thinking continue to prevail until clarified and corrected by the essential reality of their full profile. Accordingly, the face of YHWH, the triune God, the Trinity has been stereotyped and continues not to be until corrected by the full profile essential of the Trinity. In uncommon orthodoxy and uncommon Trinitarianism, the whole-ly Trinity is integrally person-al and inter-person-al, distinguished by the ontological footprints and functional steps of the trinitarian persons together, and thus is essential only to be nothing less and no substitutes. That is to say, this is the truth only if wholeness is the essential reality constituting God and life. Anything less and any substitutes are only not to be, at best a virtual reality composing God and life. The full profile of the face of the Trinity’s presence and involvement emerges only whole and uncommon, and thereby unfolds only person-al and inter-person-al.
The essential truth and reality have unfolded to illuminate the understanding of the simple: The whole profile of the Face of the Trinity has been disclosed to be with us Face to face in uncommon presence and whole involvement, in order for the essential who, what and how of all life to be in uncommon wholeness together. The challenge for Face has been fulfilled and this challenge now shifts to our face to be in reciprocal relationship Face to face to Face. Therefore, the person-al inter-person-al Trinity’s uncommon presence and whole involvement in the common context of the world challenges trinitarian theology and practice and holds accountable the church and all its persons and relationships to be in uncommon wholeness, and thus congruently in uncommon likeness of nothing less and no substitutes for the Trinity embodied, enacted and disclosed in irreducible and nonnegotiable relational terms.
Without the person-al inter-person-al Trinity’s uncommon presence and whole involvement, church theology and practice with its persons and relationships are in the common relational condition ‘to be apart’ from wholeness, in need to search for the full-profile face of who, what and how makes them whole. Perhaps a theological fog distorts their theology, or what they want over need biases their practice; regardless, the gospel of the Trinity’s presence and involvement must be accounted for in order to be claimed in wholeness. There are, of course, various approaches epistemologically, hermeneutically, ontologically, functionally and relationally that can be used, but there is just one essential key to the whole of God’s life and ours. “Pay attention to what you hear from me in relational terms; the measure you use in your theology and practice will be the measure you get” (Mk 4:24).
In the global church today and its related academy, has theology become preoccupied with the secondary and has its practice become lacking in the significance of the primary? A ‘yes’ would make evident our theology and practice taking for granted what is essential and thus who is essential. In a compelling way this should not surprise us, because this consistently has been our history from the beginning.
When YHWH consummated the covenant relationship with Abraham, this reciprocal relationship was composed to be whole (tāmiym, Gen 17:1). Israel then consistently transposed the qualitative relational significance of the covenant from inner out to outer in. What was essential for Judaism’s theology and practice was either taken for granted or just ignored, such that Israel’s identity markers no longer reflected the whole identity of YHWH. Conforming to purification standards was one of their main identity markers, most notably centered on circumcision as a critical distinction defining who they were and determining what they were as better than those uncircumcised. Paul, the unconverted Jew made whole, later clarified what was essential to be a Jew (Rom 2:28-29), and then corrected what and who were essential to be in covenant relationship together (Gal 6:15). The essential clarified and corrected by Paul had at the very least been taken for granted (cf. Rom 9:6-8,16; 10:1-3).
The early church in Sardis, in the esteemed distinction of their secondary practice, demonstrated taking for granted what was essential in their practice by either not fully knowing or taking for granted who their God was (Rev 3:1-3). The early church in Ephesus, operating for rigorous doctrinal certainty, got preoccupied by the secondary in their theology by taking for granted who was essential to their theology and practice (Rev 2:1-5). The early multicultural church in Thyatira, in their hybrid theology and practice, took for granted what and who were essential, and thus had to be accountable to the whole-ly Trinity “who searches hearts” (Rev 2:18-23)—the primary inner out essential to churches and all its persons and relationships.
Underlying this history of taking for granted what and who are essential is the pervasive assumption from the beginning that we are not and will not be reduced in our theology and practice. This assumption of the wholeness of our God and our life is the most critical problem facing the church and its persons and relationship today, the essential condition of which is in urgent need of triage care by the Trinity’s wholeness. For essential clarification and correction, the theology and practice of the gospel of wholeness in Paul’s relational language required this relational imperative: “Let the uncommon wholeness of Christ rule in your hearts, into which wholeness [distinguished from common wholeness] indeed you were called in the one body” (Col 3:15). In order for us not to diminish, minimalize or just take for granted what is essential, Paul made definitive this uncommon wholeness of Christ in the ongoing integrated function of two inseparable realities unfolding from the relational outcome of the gospel—which ‘already’ constitutes the ontology of “God’s chosen ones, holy and intimately loved,” (Col 3:12) in uncommon likeness of the whole-ly Trinity:
1. The whole person from inner out is constituted by the qualitative function of the heart restored to the qualitative relational likeness of the Trinity (Col 3:10; 2 Cor 3:18), the person who is the qualitative function of the new creation (2 Cor 5:17), which Jesus made whole from above (Jn 3:3-7); therefore, the person’s ontology and function cannot be defined and determined from outer in without fragmenting the whole person to reduced ontology and function (Gal 6:15).
2. The integral function of whole persons from inner out is vulnerably involved in the reciprocal relationships congruent in relational likeness of the whole of the Trinity (as Jesus prayed, Jn 17:20-26; Col 2:9-10; 3:10), which are constituted by transformed relationships together vulnerably integrated as equalized and intimate (Col 3:11,14; Gal 3:26-29; 5:6)—without the relational barriers of distinctions and the relational distance of the veil, in uncommon likeness of the whole-ly Trinity.
Paul understood that without uncommon wholeness ongoingly determining our life from inner out, the church and its persons and relationships are susceptible to their default condition and mode in reduced ontology and function.
From Paul’s own experience, if the uncommon wholeness of Christ and thus the Trinity is the only determinant (“rule,” brabeuo) in our hearts, then the relational outcome will be the essential ontology and function of whole persons integrally in whole relationships together. This essential ontology and function is a nonnegotiable for the gospel, or its outcome is reduced from what is essential in the whole-ly Trinity. This essential relational outcome is whole-ly distinguished in the qualitative and relational significance of the new creation ‘already’, which composes the new covenant relationship together of the Trinity’s church family in uncommon wholeness to be the Trinity’s uncommon temple (Gal 4:28-31; Rom 8:6,15-17; 2 Cor 5:18; Eph 2:14-22).
This essential reality unfolded from the Word and was further illuminated by Paul in whole understanding enlighted with the Spirit, in order for the whole of God and life to be in the common context of the world. What is essential in the whole-ly Trinity is essential for the whole of life and wholeness in life. Therefore, the profile of the face of the Trinity we use in our theology and practice will be the life we get.
“Pay attention closely to the whole-ly…!” You may experience difficulty to face the Face, but stay focused on the primary who is the trinitarian essential for the whole of your God and life.
©2016 T. Dave Matsuo