In this 3d installment on Sandage & Shults, The Faces of Forgiveness, I want to look at the first third of LeRon Shults’ chapter “Facing, Forgiveness, and the Christian Doctrine of Salvation.” I’m on record as a fan of LeRon, and this little study of the Face of God (Father/Son/Spirit) is one of the finest things I’ve read in a long time. It got me going that I almost dropped what I was doing to write a series of blogs on the “face of God” in the Bible. I hope to return to this someday.
It is not possible (or fair) to summarize the chps in this book, but this section of the chp is about the Face of the Trinity. Here are some highlights:
Here is the central OT text: “The Lord bless you and keep you;//the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;//the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26).
“Being faced by the shining countenance of God brings grace and peace — this is almost a precis of the Jewish understanding of salvation” (107).
Shults suggests a poetic translation of Exodus 20:3 be this: “You shall not have any other gods before my face” or “let no ohter gods get in the way of my facing you.” Or, “Just look at my face!” (112)
On Jesus, whose face is profoundly iconic in the NT, Shults says this:
“What is it about the face of this man from Nazareth that led his followers to proclaim that his presence was the unique manifestation of the mysterious divine countenance? They were brought to this conclusion in light of the way that Jesus faced God and others in his ministry, the way he entrusted himself to God on the cross, and the way he appeared to them after his resurrection from the dead” (114).
On the Holy Spirit:
“The Spirit of God not only provides the conditions for self-facing in consciousness or self-consciousness, but also creates and upholds the conditions for the facing of other persons in community” (122). “The promised Holy Spirit is the manifestation of the divine countenance, bringing grace and peace to the community of God. The face of the Spirit unifies the community and opens up the future, granting space and time for loving fellowship. Based on the NT witness, we may articulate the Christian experience of the face of God as an evocative presence that calls persons to participate in the peaceful communion of the Son’s facing of the Father in the Spirit” (124).