In a recent issue of The New Yorker, you can find a cartoon with a couple sitting on a couch. One says to the other, "I don't want to be defined by who I am."

The line is so human and so modern. The human part is what makes it funny: Often, when we discover who we are, we want to deny it. But it's the modern part that most interests me: that relentless search for self, the yearning to know who I am.

As with so much of modernity, this is a highly individualistic quest, and as such, it is a pointless quest. Not because the search for meaning is pointless, but because the context of modernity—the individual—is a myth.

The myth becomes apparent when we start considering who we are from a biblical and Trinitarian perspective. Both the rigors of orthodox theology and the plain sense of New Testament passages reveal that the Trinity is not merely a formal and logical explanation of God's inner essence. It points to a reality that spills over into the universe. The reality is exposed ever so briefly by Jesus when, in praying for his disciples he says:

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me … . I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:22, 26).

The formal doctrine of the Trinity, then, helps us grasp the nature of divine love.

First, it makes it clear that God's love for us cannot be based on his need for love and fellowship—as if we were necessary for a God of love to be complete. One hears this sort of silliness ...

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SoulWork
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is Editor of Christianity Today in Carol Stream, Illinois.
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