John Webster offers a theological description of the double theme of the Christian gospel, God’s perfect life which he has in himself and God’s presence with his creatures.
The series began with an account of the source of the Christian confession of God’s perfection and presence, which is God’s loving gift of himself as Lord and companion of creatures, on the basis of which God may be known, feared and loved above all things. This was followed by an account of God’s perfection: the fullness, majesty and glorious freedom of the life which God has from and in himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As the one who has life in himself, the perfect God also gives life to creatures, and sustains them by his presence. The nature, modes and history of this presence were explored in a Trinitarian analysis of God’s works in creating, reconciling and bringing creatures to completion. Finally, life in the fellowship of the saints was presented as the creaturely counterpart of the presence of the perfect God.
The lectures will be published in book form by William B. Eerdmans.
Why should ordinary Christians care about such seemingly recondite matters as how to articulate the immanent being of the Trinity? There aren’t any “ordinary” Christians; there are saints, a few of whom are appointed to the task of thinking hard about and trying to articulate the common faith of the church. We don’t usually need to use formal theological language and concepts in the everyday life of the church in prayer, preaching and service. But like any other important human activity, faith has to achieve a measure of conceptual clarity if it is to understand and express itself, and part of that process is the development of abstract concepts like Trinity, incarnation and substance. What’s important is that we don’t treat such concepts as if they were improvements on the ordinary ways in which the saints express the faith; they are simply shorthand terms, a tool kit which helps us keep certain crucial aspects of the gospel alive in the mind and worship of the church. Theology and theological abstractions matter because the gospel matters, because the gospel concerns truth, and because living in and from the truth involves the discipleship of reason.