Unitarian vs. Trinitarian Worship

December 6, 2011 — 2 Comments

[This post is part of the Revamping Christian Worship series]

At my request, Wipf & Stock was kind enough to send along a copy of Brian Kay’s Trinitarian Spirituality: John Owen and the Doctrine of God in Western Devotion. I’m only through with chapter 2 so far (which only 3opgs into the 200 total) but I can already tell its going to be a paradigm shaping read.

In Kay’s book, he is focusing on how we can examine our worship and private devotion to see if it is explicitly Trinitarian. The question posed early on is whether it makes any difference whether God is Triune for how we relate to him. We confess God is Trinity but does that filter the way we worship and commune with him?

For starters, consider this definition of worship Kay gives, via James B. Torrance:

Worship is the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father (p. 19, throughout rest of post as well).

Because of this, believers should relate to Christ as their “substitutionary or vicarious communer with the Father,” rather than just someone who gives “mere access or enablement to approach the Father.” This would explain, as Kay points out, why the Old Testament is so meticulous regarding the duty of the priests, but says relatively little about worship roles for the private individual.

Even more, this is something we should have anticipated since “the trajectory of salvation history has always been in the direction of God accomplishing things for his people.” This includes accomplishing “the very task of communing with himself.” Or in other words, we needed God to not just establish our ability to have communion with him, but to continually and daily mediate communion on our behalf lest we lose fellowship.

After presenting all this, Kay then contrasts unitarian worship with Trinitarian worship. On a unitarian model (which is unitarian in practice, not necessarily in underlying theology),

worship is primarily something humans do; God’s grace helps them to do it, and Jesus is believed to teach them how to do it and to perhaps set the example.

Or in other words, on this model, humans are their own priests. By contrast however, in true Trinitarian worship,

Christ is the one priest because of his unique privileges that allow him an approach to his Father that no fallen human could ever possess in himself…Christ communes perfectly with the Father because his divine nature is held in common with the Father’s but as a human, as mediator, he can commune in the place of the humans he represents.

Kay then concludes that these insights from Torrance will shape the way he examines other practical models of Trinitarian spirituality in the coming chapters.

Maybe it’s just me, but if we’re going to “revamp” how we look at and participate in Christian worship, we need to make certain we model an authentic Trinitarian spirituality. I’m looking forward to seeing where Kay ends up on the journey through his book, but we’re already off to a promising start!


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Trinitarian Spirituality: John Owen and The Doctrine of God in Western Devotion | Marturo - January 11, 2012

    […] posted a few thoughts on this book previously, (Questioning Your Spirituality and Unitarian vs. Trinitarian Worship) and now it’s time for a more formal […]

  2. Revamping Christian Worship | Marturo - January 23, 2012

    […] Unitarian vs Trinitarian Worship […]

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