Conclusion: No Other Choice
“What is your Christian life like? What is the shape of your gospel, your faith? In the end, it will depend on what you think God is like. Who God is drives everything.
So what is the human problem?
Is it merely that we have strayed from a moral code?
Or is it something worse: that we have strayed from him?
What is salvation? Is it merely that we are brought back as law-abiding citizens?
Or is it something better: that we are brought back as beloved children?
What is the Christian life about? Mere behaviour? Or something deeper: enjoying God?
And then there’s what our churches are like, our marriages, our relationships, our mission: all are moulded in the deepest way by what we think of God.
In the early fourth century, Arius went for a pre-cooked God, ready-baked in his mind. Ignoring the way, the truth and life, he defined God without the Son, and the fallout was catastrophic: without the Son, God cannot truly be a Father; thus alone, he is not truly love. Thus he can have no fellowship to share with us, no Son to bring us close, no Spirit through whom we might know him. Arius was left with very thin gruel: a life of self-dependent effort under the all-seeing eye of his distant and loveless God.
The tragedy is that we all think like Arius every day (my emphasis). We think of God without the Son. We think of ‘God’, and not the Father of the Son. But from there it doesn’t really take long before you find that you are just a whole lot more interesting than this ‘God’. And could you but see yourself, you would notice that you are fast becoming like this ‘God’: all inward-looking and fruitless.
The twentieth-century Russian theologian, Vladimir Lossky, put it like this: ‘If we reject the Trinity as the sole ground of all reality and all thought, we are committed to a road that leads nowhere; we end in an aporia (a despair), in folly, in the disintegration of our being, in spiritual death. Between the Trinity and hell there lies no other choice.’
However, starting with Jesus, Athanasius found himself with a God who could not have been more different from the God of Arius. It wasn’t that he found himself with some extra small-print in his description of God (‘the Trinity’): Athanasius had a God of love, a kind Father who draws us to share him eternal love and fellowship.
The choice remains: which God will we have? Which God will we proclaim? Without Jesus the Son, we cannot know that God is truly a loving Father. Without Jesus the Son, we cannot know him as our loving Father. But as Luther discovered, through Jesus we may know that God is a Father, and ‘we may look into his fatherly heart and sense how boundlessly He loves us. That would warm our hearts, setting them aglow’.
Yes it would, and more: it would bring about reformation.