One of the most significant developments in twentieth century Western theology was the conceptualization of the social Trinity. While there remains value in pondering the classical conception of God (see Ex. 33:32ff and Heb. 12:28-9), the conception of the triune God as social, relational, and purposeful invites students of theology to ponder the many ways that God has self-revealed God’s love—a love that resonates with humankind’s longing for a relationship with God: 

1. The triune God’s love for the world:  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him.” (Jn. 3:16-7)

2.  The triune God’s ongoing relationship with the world:  “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

3.  The triune God’s purposeful relationship with 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.” (Jn. 17:25-6)  As Van Gelder and Zscheile in their recent book, The Missional Church in Perspective, put it, the social Trinityprovides “a way of describing how the Bible narrates God’s involvement in the world.” (p. 10)

These passages (and the totality of God’s story of God’s involvement in the world in the Scriptures) show God to be emotional, relational, and purposeful. The social, relational, and purposeful God acts and that is how God intended for people to know God. The social, relational, and purposeful God also speaks so that humankind can know God. Hebrews 1:1-3 captures both the speaking (in the Scriptures) and acting (in Jesus Christ) of God’s self-revelation: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

Advent is a season where the church ponders the acting and speaking of God in the incarnation of the Son. Advent is an invitation to recall and dwell on this revelation of God’s commitment to love and redeem the world.

Susan Disston was assistant dean of curriculum and assessment at Biblical Seminary.




0 # Katheryne Carte 2012-12-19 04:49
Hello Professor Disston,

I did not find an email address on Biblical's site for you. We have not met and I would have preferred to email you so that I could more comfortably introduce myself and ask this question: What is "Ex. 33:32ff"? You reference it in the first paragraph. I checked for Exodus 33:32 but the chapter ends at verse 23.

I look forward to meeting you in the future.

Katheryne :)
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