It is critically important to sing Christian songs and hymns that are consistent with Christian theology and worldview overall. Yet the only way to know if the song or hymn is compatible with the faith is to think carefully about the words and meanings it mentions.
For example, if you’ve ever attended a liturgical Christian church then you’ve likely heard and even sang the popular hymn “Glory Be to the Father,” known in Latin as the Gloria Patri. When I attended the Roman Catholic Church as a youth we also called it the “Glory Be.” (It is often the case in Christian history that document and song titles are taken from the very first words to appear on the page.)
The Gloria Patri serves as a doxology (short hymn of praise) to the eternal Triune God. Here is the English version that we sing at every service at the Reformed church that I attend:
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Amen.
A friend of mine, who grew up reciting the Gloria Patri while attending a Presbyterian church, asked me about a specific phrase that appears in the doxological hymn. Here’s his question:
The last stanza of the hymn seems to conflict with what I understand about Scripture, and also with RTB teaching: ‘…as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.’ Scripture clearly teaches that the universe is in a state of decay (entropy) since the Fall (thus not the same now as in the beginning); and will one day be burned up at the Final Judgment, replaced with a New Creation (thus the current world will one day end).
This is a good question; however, we need not worry that the Gloria Patri violates scriptural teaching. The unusual English expression “world without end” refers not to the physical cosmos we are presently in, but to the eternal glory of the Trinity that endures throughout the ages (beginning, now, evermore). “World without end” is another way of saying “forever and ever” or “ages upon ages” and it applies to the appropriate glory of the Trinity. It is not a reference to the present created order enduring forever. Thus, we can go on reciting the Gloria Patri without fear of false doctrine.
Since the Gloria Patri is a wonderful historical and doxological hymn to sing in praise of the Triune God, let me also recommend a book that I recently reviewed. Delighting in the Trinity by theologian Michael Reeves is one of the very best books that I have read on the Trinity. He does a great job of explaining the importance of the Trinity for Christian belief and life and why only the Triune God can be love and offer loving forgiveness to repentant sinners.
As a historic Christian the most appealing aspect of my faith is the truth that God is Triune (one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). God’s unique Triune nature is revealed in the pages of Scripture and is theologically defined in the historic creeds and confessions of Christendom. The doctrine of the Trinity is arguably historic Christianity’s most distinctive theological feature and therefore impacts all Christian belief and practice. Continue reading
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
–The Gloria Patri
Some people challenge the idea that the Bible supports God’s Triune nature. However, six simple statements show how this doctrine is indeed derived from Scripture: Continue reading
Self-giving love is the dynamic currency of the trinitarian life of God. The persons within God exalt each other, commune with each other, defer to one another. Each person, so to speak, makes room for the other two. I know it sounds a little strange, but we might almost say that the persons within God show each other divine hospitality.
—Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Engaging God’s World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 20.
According to the Bible, the Creator of the universe is an infinite and morally perfect being. However, the same scriptural text states that human beings are (by nature) creatures, which means they are finite and, because of sin, imperfect. Yet, for the creature to encounter the Creator, the creature must first acknowledge his or her limitations, boundaries, and imperfections. Thus, from a biblical perspective, human beings must become acquainted with mystery if they are to come to know the infinite, eternal, and unchanging God. For as evangelical theologian Bruce Milne states in Know The Truth, p. 52: Continue reading
A student in the logic class I was teaching said that the Trinity doctrine was contradictory. He argued the following: Since the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; and since the Father is not the Son, the Father is not the Holy Spirit, and the Son is not the Holy Spirit; then the result is that each person is simultaneously God and not God. This is, he reasoned, a violation of the law of noncontradiction (A cannot equal A and equal non-A). Continue reading
Do the truths of Christianity have to make logical sense? The law of noncontradiction (the foundational principle for all logical thinking) asserts that two contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same time and in the same respect (A cannot equal A and also equal non-A). But how does logic apply to the Trinity doctrine? Continue reading
First, the members of the Trinity are qualitatively equal in attributes, nature, and glory. While Scripture reveals a voluntary subordination among the divine persons in terms of position or role (for example, the Son submits to the Father; the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son), there exists absolutely no subordination (or inferiority) of essence or nature. The persons are therefore equal in being, but subordinate only in role or position. Continue reading
Because the Christian vision of God is unique, mysterious, and inscrutable to the finite mind, it is often misunderstood and misrepresented. Let’s briefly examine what the doctrine of the Trinity does and does not teach by underscoring three points. Continue reading