Archives For Triperspectivalism

psalm 99Last year, I wrote a blogpost about Triperspectivalism in the Psalms, mainly drawing from Psalm 71. I’ve continued to slowly meditate my way through the Psalms, and this morning I found myself enjoying Psalm 99. This is a psalm that I have skimmed over in the past with an acceleration button pressed toward Psalm 100. But today, I decided to reverse the speed and go in slow motion.

What I realized in Psalm 99 is three pairs: God’s reign and rule (vs. 1-2); God’s majesty and holiness (vs. 3-4); and how God’s people respond to God’s character and God’s ways, viz., exaltation and worship (vs. 3, 5, 9). As I thought about these pairs, the triperspectival grid kicked into my thinking (normative – existential – situational).

The normative aspect of the Christian life is God’s character. It is the standard and rule for our lives. We become what we are (children of God becoming like Christ). We are situated in a world where God’s ways are continually brought before us. We see his might and awesome deeds worked on behalf of His people. The situational aspect is that God’s people are in the domain of God’s reign and rule. The existential aspect has to do with how God’s people respond to God’s ways and enter into His presence. The answer is awe, wonder, and worship. We experience God in His character and through His ways so that we would make much of Him and “praise His great and awesome name” (vs. 3). In short, the standard is God’s holiness; the situation is God’s rule; our response is worship. This the matrix of communion with God.

Whenever God’s character is not normative for our lives, we wander off into situations of self-rule rather than divine rule. Our response is not worship of God but self-worship and idolatry. Therefore, the response of God’s people in worship is calibrated by the nearness and experience of God’s character and ways. White hot, fervent, earnest worship is born out of a clear and continual sight of who God is and what God has done for us in Christ. There is no better place to be in all the world than to be under the reign of God beholding the glory of God with others genuine engaged in the worship of God.

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Priest-Prophet-KingYesterday morning, Dr. Tom Nettles preached on Melchizedek from Hebrews 7 at Grace, pointing out the significance of his name and offices. As a type of Christ, Melchizedek functioned as prophet (blessing Abraham), priest (of the Most High God), and king (of Salem). The offices of Christ and his role as mediator of the New Covenant is one of the richest topics for sustained meditation and gospel enjoyment.

But today, I thought about the spiritual perverseness of substituting myself in the role of being prophet, priest, and king of my own life. I know that sounds crazy, but if we are honest with ourselves, we are more prone to this manner of forgetting the gospel than we realize.

When I Am My Own Prophet

Jesus not only faithfully proclaims the truth, Jesus is the truth. Jesus not only gives us direct Word from God; Jesus is the Word made flesh.  As the writer of Hebrews explains, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). Paul Tripp rightly notes that no one speaks to you more than you do; therefore, no one has more influence over your thoughts than you. Each and every day, we have the option to have Jesus as our Prophet, or we can speak things into our own lives in our self-salvation project.

When I am my own prophet, I am willing to believes half-truths or complete lies rather than the what God says about me in Christ. Is Christ words not enough? In the words of Joel Osteen, is it that I have to declare things over me, or is not what Jesus declares sufficient? If I am in Christ, I am to be defined by the Gospel word, having the good news as the most important and constant message that shapes my identity. When I am my own prophet, I foolishly substitute counterfeit messages that might comfort for the moment but cannot heal, pacify but cannot bring peace, help you cope but cannot save.

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Tim Keller, in his new book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, writes about the triperspectival New Covenant nature of Christians united with Christ.

Jesus has all the powers and functions of ministry in himself. He ha a prophetic ministry, speaking the truth and applying it to men and women on behalf of God. Jesus was the ultimate prophet, for he revealed most clearly (both in his words and his life) God’s character, saving purposes, and will for our lives. Jesus also had a priestly ministry. While a prophet is an advocate for God before people, a priest is an advocate for the people before God’s presence, ministering with mercy and sympathy. Jesus was the ultimate priest, for he stood in or place and sacrificially bore our burdens and sin, and he now brings us into God’s presence. Finally, Jesus has a kingly ministry. He is the ultimate king, ordering the life of his people through his revealed law.

Every believer, through the Holy Spirit, is to minister to others in these three ways as well.

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Between His resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus spent 40 days appearing multiple times to his disciples and some 500 people. I have not spent a great deal reflecting on this period of time in Jesus’ earthly ministry, but here lately I have found it particularly fruitful.  One of the helpful reflections I’ve enjoyed this week was how Jesus revealed Himself during this time as prophet, priest, and king in such clear and convincing ways.

The Risen Lord as Prophet

The first recorded appearance of our Risen Lord was on the road to Emmaus. Here were two men, depressed and dejected because they had come to hope that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the one “to redeem Israel.” During that journey, Jesus “opened up the Scriptures” beginning “with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).  Jesus repeated this practice with His disciples. Luke records Jesus declaring, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…” (Luke 24:44-45). Jesus was committed to not only teaching the truth of God’s Word, He was committed to His disciples rightly interpreting God’s Word–all of Scripture is about Him!

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OK. So I don’t expect to get a lot of reads based on that title, but for those following the discussion on triperspectivalism/multiperspectivalism, this little excerpt from Vern Poythress I find worthwhile. In his paper, “Multiperspectivalism and the Reformed Faith“, Poythress talks about the a priori role of Cornelius Van Til in the theological construction of multiperspectivalism, especially in relation to Christian epistemology. I found the following excerpt particularly insightful. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

The Creator-creature distinction also reminds Christians that in the arena of knowledge they do not have to be God, or to aspire to be divine in their knowledge. Christians can thus be free to admit that what they have is only finite knowledge, and that they have their knowledge only from the “perspective” of who they are with finite experience and a finite location. At the same time, because God reveals himself in general and special revelation, and supremely through Christ, Christians can be confident that they have genuine knowledge–knowledge of God, and knowledge concerning things around them.

Human perspectives are limited, but still valid (insofar as they are not distorted by sin). Any one Christian human perspective coheres with the infinitude of divine knowledge, because the perspective comes as a gift from God. Multiple perspectives are intrinsically all right rather than an embarrassment or a frustration. Hence, admitting that you are a creature leads naturally to multiperspectivalism.

Suppose, by contrast, that you abolish the Creator-creature distinction in your own thinking. If you think God is on the same level with you, then your knowledge must be God’s knowledge if it is to be true at all. You must be God. Or you must bring God down to your level, in order to have assurance that your knowledge is valid. In that case, your perspective is God’s perspective, pure and simple, and there is only one valid perspective, namely your own. That point of view is what Van Til and John Frame call “non-Christian rationalism.” The human mind claims absolute autonomy and becomes the standard for truth. That approach has an intrinsic tendency toward monoperspectivalism. It exalts a single chosen perspective, and ends up crushing out all diversity in human perspectives.

When such godlike claims become implausible, as they inevitably do, the nonChristian moves to the opposite pole, “non-Christian irrationalism.” He admits that he is not God, that his knowledge is not infinite. But he does not give up his autonomy. He still clings to the ultimacy of his own perspective. So then he lapses into skepticism. He concludes that no one can know anything rightly, because no one can attain infinity.

Christian thinking affirms the accessibility of God. Christian thinking is not postmodernist; it does not irrationalistically exalt diversity and give up unity. At the same time, Christian thinking rejects the modernist confidence in autonomous human rationality as an ultimate foundation for truth. Neither modernism nor postmodernism acknowledges the Creator-creature distinction. So neither agrees with the Christian answer, which is that we can remain creatures, in submission to the Creator. God gives us real but not exhaustive knowledge of the truth. [emphasis mine]

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I’ve written a fairly decent amount of articles on triperspectivalism over the past couple of years, and this post is daily generating traffic from those inquiring about it. Outside of what I’ve written online, there are at least 3-4 other areas of church leadership and ministry where I’ve discovered triperspectivalism to be helpful. Some have asked if there was a way to package all that together in one place. In an effort to do that, I’m starting with a 5-hour mini conference on triperspectival leadership in conjunction with the PLNTD Nashville conference next weekend.

One week from today, I will lead folks in exploring the nature of triperspectivalism and how it works out in the local church. There are many approaches to leadership in the church, and the unique contribution triperspectival leadership makes is its distinct, gospel-driven framework established on the mediating offices of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King. This paradigm for leadership in the church has caught the attention of many, and as one can imagine, it can be easily misunderstood and misapplied. I will lead a 5-hour practicum to explore the theological foundation and practical application of triperspectival leadership, including spiritual formation, cultural engagement, leadership development, disciple-making, church transitions, prayer life, and preaching (possibly others). The goal of this pre-conference is to equip you with a gospel-driven form and framework for leading a gospel-centered church.

Thursday, November 1

6:00 Dinner
7:00 Session 1: Theology: The Nature, Purpose, and Limits of Triperspectivalism*
9:00 Q&A

* I will explain how triperspectivalism came about through the influence of John Frame primarily and secondarily through Vern Poythress, Drew Goodmanson, David Fairchild, Tim Keller, and others. Additionally I will hash out the various venues where the triads appear, including epistemology, ethics, Lordship, Christology, leadership, and virtue. From this theological foundation and fleshed out paradigm, we will see how these triads are applied in leadership in the local church.

Friday, November 2

8:00 Breakfast and Fellowship
9:00 Session 2: Praxis: Applying Tripersectivalism in Church Leadership*
12:00 Over

* In the second session, I explain the outworking of triperspectival leadership in various areas of church life, including biblical hermeneutics, Christ-centered preaching, gospel-centered spiritual formation, daily prayer rhythms, balancing pastoral priorities and practices, understanding church structures, creating culture (transitioning), cultural engagement, discipleship, and leadership development in gospel communities. The praxis of triperspectival leadership intends to see the gospel through not only what we do but how we do what we do.

There’s still some slots available for this pre-conference. It’s one week from today.
Register on Eventbrite and join us if you can!

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A month ago, I made the case from a macro level that there is a triperspectival structure to the gospel of John. I am not saying of course that John was writing/thinking triperspectivally when he wrote this gospel account, but I do believe that God has a way of presenting truth perspectivally (hence, four gospel accounts as opposed to one). John Frame argues, “God’s knowledge is not only omniscient, but omniperspectival. He knows from his own infinite perspective; but that infinite perspective includes a knowledge of all created perspectives, possible and actual” (Primer on Perspectivalism, 2). Speaking of human and divine authorship, Frame later adds,

“God reveals himself by inspiring human beings. He generally does not dictate, but rather enables them to write consistently with their own gifts, education, and personalities, that is, their own perspectives. And by such divine enablement, each author writes exactly what God wants him to write” (ibid., 4).

So when I’m asked whether John was thinking triperspectivally, my answer would be no. But he was writing from his own perspective, and God used that as one of multiple perspectives to convey the beauty and brilliance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.


As I continue in my morning meditations in the gospel of John, I found myself in John 15. It’s a passage many Christians are familiar with and one I’ve read numerous times. One might think I’m fishing for triad of perspectives so as to force a paradigm into a text, but this morning was another case I believe that disproves this imposition. Let me explain.

In my Bible, John 15 is broken down in three large paragraphs (mainly).

Paragraph 1 is John 15:1-11
Paragraph 2 is John 15:12-17
Paragraph 3 is John 15:18-25

In my meditating on each of these paragraphs, the normative (Prophet), existential (Priest), and situational (King) perspectives surfaced rather convincingly to me.

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While working through the Psalms devotionally, I began to see a triperspectival pattern (to no one’s surprise) worth mentioning. A great example of this would be Psalm 71.

The psalmist begins with an emphasis on the Lord being his refuge. Starting with his present circumstance and situation, he  describes the difficulties surrounding him and how the nearness of the Lord (his refuge, rock, fortress, etc.) governs how he responds and operates in such circumstances. Though the circumstances are big, serious, and grave, the psalmist kept going back to God as the King of his life and declaring He is bigger, stronger, and nearer.

The second focus of the psalmist is the Lord’s righteousness. In his situation, he pleads for God to respond on the basis of his righteousness (“in your righteousness deliver me and rescue me”). In summary form, the righteousness of God describes God’s unique character and sovereign work (“your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?”). When the psalmist remembers and declares the character and work of the Lord, it becomes normative and defines his life.

The third focus of the psalmist is the Lord’s redemption. Having seen and heard of the Lord’s righteous character and ways (righteousness), he longs to experience that in the ongoing redemptive work of the Lord in his life. He writes, “My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long…”. When you experience redemption from the Lord, you cannot but respond with shouts of joy and songs of praise.

Together then, the Christian experience is learning to find hope and trust in God who is our refuge (situational), remembering the righteousness of God to experience renewal and revival (normative), and joyfully singing, praising, and telling of God’s redemptive work in your life (existential). The psalmist begins with his situation and says, because Christ is King, my circumstances does not have to rule his life. Jesus does. Knowing the temptation to default to unbelief where God becomes functionally non-existent in his life, the psalmist remembers the character and work of God.  Because God reveals Himself through His Word, the true Prophet, we can orient our lives around the revelation of who God is and what He has done. Finally, the redemption of God brought through Christ the High Priest, not only can we know of the ways of God, we can experience it ourselves through the redemption He brings. Those who have entered into the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus are wrecked to a life of praising, shouting, and telling of all that God is for you in His Son Jesus. So, the flow looks like this:

Who God is » God’s self-revelation (righteousness) » normative
(prophet who defines our lives)
What God has done » God’s saving work (redemption) » existential
(priest who redeems our lives)
Why that matters » God’s presence and promises (refuge) » situational
(king who rules our lives)

I am not trying to impose a philosophical or epistemological construct over the text of Scripture; rather, I am simply trying to draw out what is there with a Christocentric hermeneutic in both form and substance. At least for me, it has helped me see Jesus and rejoice in the God who is altogether righteous, whose redemption makes my heart sing, and whose presence causes me to trust and hope no matter the situation.

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I’ve really enjoyed the recent weeks of devotional study in the gospel of John. As I studied the book on a macroscopic level, I noticed a triperspectival structure to the book, especially in three sequential themes. For those new to triperspectivalism, bear with me while I try to explain.

In simplest terms, triperspectivalism is three (tri) perspectives (perspectivalism) most commonly understood in terms of (1) knowledge (epistemology), viz. normative, existential, and situational; (2) the offices of Christ (Christology), viz., prophet, priest, and king; or (3) practically speaking, the common three-pronged approach to the Christian experience in head, heart, and hands.


I find triperspectivalism in the Gospel of John with three word themes: “Glory”, “Believe”, and “Follow/Keep”. John makes it clear in John 20:30-31 there is an intentional purpose to the structure of His book (built around “signs”). The signs are glimpses of the glory Christ. They are windows which unveil the true identity of Jesus as Messiah, God’s Son. The purpose of God revealing His glory in Christ is so that sinners would believe. Bringing his book to conclusion, John writes:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

Signs were performed for the purpose of creating faith. Faith born in the heart of sinners brings life in the name of Jesus. When we see the first “sign” Jesus performed turning the water into wine, John’s commentary confirms this very purpose. In John 2:11, John writes:

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

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Don’t look now, but I’m about to toss more triperspectivalism on the blog. If this is a new term for you, you can get the scoop on my “Resources” page for previous posts.

Triperspectivalism simply is a way to look at reality from multiple perspectives, specifically three. From an Christological standpoint, the perspectives relates to the three offices of Christ mediation, namely Prophet, Priest, and King. From an ethical standpoint, the perspectives are described as Normative, Existential, and Situational. And on a practical level, these perspectives can be argued from Head, Heart, and Hands. Through the multi-faceted angles and perspectives, one can develop a healthy and balanced paradigm for living skillfully (as I have sought to argue in the past).

Another area I’d like to posit a triperspectival approach is that of blogging. As I was returning from vacation last week and launching the updated version of this blog, I began thinking of how I can evaluate blogging in general and this blog in particular, and the triperspectival framework clicked into my brain about halfway home from the beach, and here’s what I came up with.

Triperspectival Blogging

I find that strong, balanced blogs generally take a triperspectival approach to blogging. They may not call it that, and they may not realize they are doing it. So what do I mean by triperspectival blogging? I am referring to blogposts (and blog metanarrative) that incorporate all three perspectives of normative, existential, and situational to everyday life. Let me explain.

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