Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son,whom I love; with you I am well pleased. –Mark 1:10-11
When the gymnasts in the Olympics perform their routines, they make their bodies do things that one would think human bodies should not be able to do without the aid of movie special effects. What amazes me, however, is that after I’ve been watching the gymnasts for a few minutes, I forget that the human body should not be able to twist and flip in such a manner. Instead, I recognize their moves as the most natural thing in the world.
Theologians, it seems, require some mental gymnastics to explain the concept of the Trinity. The hymn is clear–“God in three persons, blessed Trinity”–but how that works remains awfully hazy. How does the idea of the Trinity–never stated overtly in scripture but certainly present–coexist with Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one”?
On the other hand, how can my friends among the Oneness Pentecostals ignore passages like today’s. What sort of gymnastics must they undertake to have Jesus playing ventriloquist, declaring his love for himself, and then doing some kind of astral projection to have himself as the Holy Spirit flying around overhead.
The problem with these sorts of gymnastics is that after we watch them for a while, they seem perfectly correct, perhaps even self-evident. When we hang out with people inclined to believe these sorts of things, their truth seems to be even more confirmed.
When Christians argue over these things, when we allow them to divide us or occupy the bulk of our attention and time, we take our eyes off of matters of greatest importance. I have no doubt that some of my theological understandings will be corrected when I get to Heaven, but there’s one understanding that I’m quite certain will not have to amended: Jesus is God’s Son, in whom God is well pleased.
What a shame it would be to miss the forest of Christ for the trees of theological interpretation. As a child, I remember having the moment represented in these verses presented as particularly important since all three members of the Trinity were clearly present. Okay, but how about valuing it for its proclamation of Jesus’ importance?
There’s a place for theological gymnastics. It’s enjoyable and even edifying to debate these matters, but only when we debate with those who have already entered into the sheepfold of Jesus Christ.