Trinitarian Communion and Personal Healing

Is the doctrine of the Trinity of any practical value to the Christian life? While all Evangelical Christians must affirm God’s trifold nature, many wrestle to see the relevance of the doctrine for daily living. We believe in God as Father, Son, and Spirit, but when it comes to life this truth doesn’t hold a lot of a applicable meaning. Trinitarian communion, however, presents us with an intersubjective relationship leading to personal healing.

The human person is born at odds with himself, his world, and His God. Sin has created all sorts of internal and external dysphoria. Because sin has marred the image of God in us we no longer understand ourselves rightly. We were made to live in relation to God and apart from Him we are missing a vital piece of our self-conception. We are also increasingly disconnected or wrongly connected to those around us. We are negatively influenced by the sins of others, impacted by their perception of us, and integrate their harm into our own self-conception as well. Man is, then, deeply flawed and in need of serious internal healing. This is where the doctrine of the Trinity comes to our aid.

Eric Johnson has masterfully formulated the therapeutic value of the doctrine of Trinitarian Communion. In his latest book God & Soul Care he discusses how our inclusion into the intratrintarian fellowship provides us with the kind of eternal, perfect acceptance and love that we most need to heal our souls. He develops this first by establishing the foundation of intratrinitarian love. The monotheism of Christianity is unique in that this one God exists, eternally, as three persons. The God of the Bible exists eternally as a community, relating eternally to one another in love. The doctrine of Perichoresis refers to the mutual indwelling of the members of the Trinity. Jesus says, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11). They experience a perfect communion and unity with one another. Yet, this unity does not stay isolated from us, but rather expands towards us inviting us into their own communion. As Michael Horton has written:

We recognize the marvelous symmetry of love between the Father, Son, and the Spirit, yet not in a circle of exclusion but in an ecstatic, eccentric, extroverted, movement of embrace to include even enemies in a communion of peace. (Covenant and Salvation, 13)

We participate, then, in this intratrinatiran love when we come to God through Christ by the power of the Spirit (i.e. through the gospel). It is this “intersubjective relationships with the Triune God,” says Johnson, which “heals the soul.” We experience “something analogous to perichoresis with God (Jn 14:23; 15:4; 17:21, 23,26)” (64). It is of course not exactly like perichoresis because we are distinct from God in our humanity and fallen in our sinfulness. Yet, there is still something significant about our communion with God (1 Jn 1:3).

Our communion with the members of the Trinity can direct us towards a totally different sense of self. It provides us a context of acceptance, love, and security that we lack in this fallen world. Johnson writes:

One would think this [communion with God] could lead to significant psychospiritual benefits for believers; in this way, they can taste the richest interpersonal experience possible with an immaterial and infinite tripersonal being: a matures, secure attachment bond, friendship (John 15:13-15), intimacy with God, and a sense of being wanted, cherished, and loved by a holy God of love, pervasively conditioned by a spirit of dependence, worship, and obedience. (65)

This intersubjective experience of God brings with it an eventual whole life integration. Again Johnson writes:

By this means they make possible a significant kind of healing through the reorganization of their brains/souls around God and his glory, creating reparative relational experiences with God by the Spirit that promote internal integration and reduce their double-mindedness and the conflict of a divided heart.

We come to be at peace with ourselves as we come to experience communion with our maker.

Johnson develops this further through a specific example. He draws attention to the formation of “cognitive-affective/neural structures” which take place in early socialization, and how this “internal working model” comes to “constitute their deep view of themselves and others and condition the quality of their relationships with God and others” (65). When our early socialization includes “chronically poor caregivers,” then “one’s internal working model can be rather severely distorted.” It is through the intersubjective experience of God that we can modify our internal working model. So, Johnson draws out the implication beautifully; he writes:

Through new, repeated, positive intersubjective experiences with the triune God – the deeper and more emotionally intense the better – new, healthier beliefs, feelings, mental images, actions, and narrative episodes can be stored in one’s brain/memory that can gradually modify the counselee’s damaged internal working model…A merely intellectual relationship with God , based solely on conscious head knowledge is not enough to heal the unconscious regions of the soul. (66)

Deepening our experience of Trinitarian communion deepens our soul-healing.

The Trinity has many wonderful implications for the life of the believer (see Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God). One specific therapeutic value resides in our experience of the intratrinitarian relationship. Communion with the Trinity can lead to soul-healing. Our intersubjective experience of the Triune God reorients our sense of self and alters our experience of others. Draw close, then, to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that you too might experience increasing personal healing.

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