The Only God Is Trinity

When we think of the Trinity, we tend to think of systematic and historical theology: ancient councils, obscure debates, and dangerous heresies. But what difference does the Trinity make in our ministry today? What does the Trinity tells us about the character of God and the character of ministry on his behalf?

I sat down to ask those questions of two professors of divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. Robert Smith Jr. passionately calls his students to find the intratrinitarian presence in the passages they preach. “I must put Trinitarian spectacles on every time I look at the text,” he told me in this interview. “God never acts outside his Trinitarian nature.”

But ministry today often breaks down into what Smith calls “trinitarian turf wars.” Some churches pride themselves on being Spirit-led. But others make a priority of preaching expositional messages centered on Christ. Must we choose? Is it even possible to neglect the Holy Spirit in our ministry? Listen to the interview to hear Smith describe the role of the Holy Spirit as public relations expert for Jesus Christ.

Graham Cole, Anglican professor of divinity at Beeson, observes a difference in theology we confess and theology we practice. As he explains in this interview, we’re tempted to become “functionally Unitarian” in our prayer. But the Trinity truly sets Christianity apart from other attempts to describe God. Cole has studied Islam for 30 years, and the Muslim message of submission differs fundamentally from the good news of Trinity, which tells us God is relational on the inside. Cole goes on to describe the character of “love-led” Christian ministry.

As the interview concludes, Smith explains the difference it makes when someone at Beeson Divinity School starts to really get the Trinity in his preaching classes. Likewise, Cole describes the influence of the Trinity on his courses about prayer. As Cole explains, “Our prayers really tell people what our theology is.”

You can stream the full interview below, download the mp3, or subscribe to TGC audio on iTunes or through your other mobile devices.

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Smith, Cole, Hansen on Trinitarian Ministry

  • Darren Blair

    *”I must put Trinitarian spectacles on every time I look at the text,”*

    While I can understand the sentiment being expressed here, IMHO this is a pretty unfortunate choice of words.

    To someone who doesn’t follow the traditional 3-in-1 notion of the Trinity, a statement such as this can be taken to mean “The Trinity isn’t explicitly supported in the scriptures and so people have to look for it specifically.”

    • Collin Hansen

      What else did you think of the discussion after listening, Darren?

      • Darren Blair

        I’ve been having issues with my wireless this morning, and so I’ll have to get to the full audio later this afternoon.

  • Matti

    Trinity is an exciting topic because the triune God in His persons is the basis of our redemption. Redemption is the action of the the Trinity.

    One thing I find odd is there is very little of literature about the practicality of Trinity. The discussion has been so much dominated by the ontological and philosophical side of the doctrine of Trinity.

  • carl peterson


    I understand you concern but I think Dr. Smith and the quote is absolutely right on. We all come to the text of the Bible with some sort of spectacles on. The question really is which type of glasses will I wear? Arius was biblical theologian however, he chose to wear very strict monotheistic glasses. Sure the Trinity is taught explicitlyin the sense that it is the back bone and is the fabric of scripture. But it can be easily looked over if one does not come to scripture with what the church fathers called the “rule of faith.”


  • Giles Beynon

    Interesting topic. I can’t agree more with pray and how it shapes are view of God. Also how the son is mediator between Father and myself. The way I try and see it is like this. I pray to the Father as taught on sermon on the mount. I’m in his court room. Christ has allowed me through his work in the gospel for this to happen. Christ is my King and the one I try to copy as he is the first and perfect. Through the work of Christ i have the spirit and he guides, empowers and convicts me. So I follow Christs teaching through the power of the holy spirit which I ask the Father to provide. I see reality in three dimensions and God is three persons but all the same. Look at a cube you get the idea. Great topic.

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