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Trinitarian Worship, Part 1

by the Reverend Berten Waggoner, M.Div.

The God we worship is a Trinitarian God. We know no other God than the one revealed in Jesus Christ - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. John Calvin put it well, “unless we think — of God as Trinitarian we have no knowledge of God at all, only the Word “God” flutters through our brain naked, and void of meaning.”  (Quoted by Leonard Hodgson, The Doctrine of the Trinity, p.15)

The triune God is the boast of the Christian faith.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge called the doctrine of the trinity the “idea of ideas.” “It is,” he said, “that great truth, in which are contained all treasures of all possible knowledge. (Colin Gunton, The One, The Three and The Many, p. 144)” The truth of the Trinity is priceless, and incomparable. It is a teaching about God’s life and our life with him that explores worship, relationship, personhood, and community in light of the revelation in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sadly, the church has neglected this treasure. Catholic scholar Karl Rahner’s assessment might be a little extreme, but he is certainly right in his emphasis, “Christians are, in their practical lives, almost mere ‘monotheists, and were the doctrine to be eliminated as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.” (The Trinity, p. 10) The prayer and thought required to understand more clearly this blessed truth is seldom given. Thus we have cacophony of prayers and praise that confuse the Trinitarian persons, hide their unity, and randomly assign their work.

Much of the blame for this demise in Trinitarian thought could be laid at the feet of the theological community who, because of their enamorment with the Enlightenment, pushed this rather embarrassing doctrine to the periphery of theological discussion. But the worship community must also bear part of the blame. Worship influences doctrine and doctrine influences worship. (Lex orandi, lex credendi - “the rule of prayer a norm for belief”) This pattern of mutual influence can be seen in the New Testament. Paul consistently corrects the worship of the church by applying theological criteria (I Corinthians 11 and 14.) He also used the liturgy of the church to support theological points (Romans 10:8-13 and Philippians 2:5-11). Who ultimately has the most influence in formation of faith, the theologian or the worship leader? The truth is, frightening though it may be, worship leaders are much more influential in shaping the theology of the average worshiper than is the theologian, teacher, or preacher.

That really places a high responsibility on the worship leader and leads me to ask: “If the worship of the church plays such a vital role in faith formation, and if the most fundamental reality in our faith is the trinity, what should the worship leader do to prepare himself or herself to lead in the worship of the triune God?

More to come . . . in Part 2 . . . becoming a trinitarian worship
leader;  bad and good models; perichoresis and "mutual indwelling."

Berten "Bert" Waggoner is a teacher, pastor, and national director of Vineyard, USA. To learn more about Vineyard, USA please visit
http://www.vineyardusa.org/site/.