thinking theology

Trinity Sunday, a day senior pastors hand off to junior clergy, a day when children are offered inexplicable and unscientific explanations of a mystery, a day when we sometimes want to detach our intellects from our faith. Over the years, however, I have come to appreciate the idea of the trinity.

The concept of a trinity developed aa a way to explain the nature of the Jesus of history and the Christ of theology. The council of Nicaea in 325 created the confession of faith that we use now as a way of settling the various arguments. Before and after, theologians continued to look into both Hebrew and Christian scripture to explain their stances.

What are we to do with this? If we resist thinking of theTrinity as a thing and more as a focus for consideration, I think it becomes a useful formula for us. I am going to suggest a way to think about the Trinity and invite you to test your own thoughts too.

Basically, I tend to think of “god” as the mystery that both inhabits every atom of the earth and surrounds the earth with blessing. I think of Jesus as the human expression of the divine. In other words, as Marcus Borg said, “If God filled a human, this is how they would be.”  The Spirit is the force that has ultimate freedom to awe, to invite, to inspire, to connect the deep presence of the divine of all that is and to help us to experience that oneness in our own lives.

So, to find words or ideas to express this and to test our theological positions, I propose this exercise: Trinity as…
a noun: Lover, Beloved, Love
a verb: recreate, relate, communicate
an adjective: mysterious, compassionate, exciting
a colour: blue, green, silver

These are my reactions to this question, now. To explain them tells me how I am experiencing the Holy right now, what has the greatest focus for me right now. Sallie McFague, the eco-theologian, in her book A New Climate for Theology, says,

As I have come to realize that we all live and move and have our being in God, the names of each person, species, creature, and element are superimposed over God’s name. God is reality; God is the source of reality of each of us. Panentheism — seeing the world as in God — puts God’s “name” first, but each of our names are included and preserved in their distinctiveness within the divine reality.

The Trinity then is a synthesis of who and where we meet the divine, in the world, in our minds and imaginations, in other people, and in the experiences that are beyond speech or definition.

And finally, from Sallie McFague again:

We meet God in and through the world, if we are ever to meet God. God is not out there or back there or yet to be, but hidden in the most ordinary things of our ordinary lives. If we cannot find the transcendent in the world, in its beauty and its suffering, then for us bodily, earthy creatures it is probably not to be found at all.

So what does that mean from the passage from Matthew:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

What kind of disciples are we to make? Somewhat prosaically we have thought it meant making more Christians, but what if the intention has a wider focus? What if we are called to invite others and participate with others in seeing the holiness that surrounds and permeates our lives? What if we are to be earth disciples, shielding God’s garden from further harm and healing what has already been done? What if we are to be the protectors of all the vulnerable, acting out Jesus’ radical inclusivity of love and concern for all people? What if we are called to abandon our obsessive self concern and open ourselves to living in the unprotected, wild whirlwind of the Spirit? Maybe we are not called to believe in the Trinity but act in the Trinity, to display in our lives who to love, how to see ourselves and everyone else as beloved, to free ourselves from the ramshackle debris of the past and open ourselves to a new world that has peace and justice as its political platform, that values human life above all forms of violence, that takes seriously God’s desire for us all to become christ-like without necessarily becoming christians.

What if this is the question the doctrine of the Trinity presents to us?

Comments on: "Trinity: Where We Meet the Divine" (3)

  1. It isn’t.

  2. It is precisely this kind of vacuous, placating, pseudo-spirituality which is driving parishioners away from the Anglican church in droves. You are offering less than nothing, people might as well be reading The Secret.

    A seeker approaches the altar of the Lord and instead of preaching Christ the Way and feeding him the bread of Heaven, you fill his mouth with ashes and rush to reassure him that there is no way. He was right before, truth doesn’t exist and relativism is the only gospel, there is no higher state of being for humanity than this dessicated, moribund modern culture wherein the places with the highest standards of living and the most education are the least happy. Get comfortable, stay comfortable; don’t let something so old-fashioned and exclusive as the Bible challenge your middle class values. The church has nothing to offer anyone except empty ritual and apologies for its shameful history of ever having insinuated there’s such a thing as right behaviour and true beliefs.

    I’m a young woman baptised and confirmed in the Anglican church, because I naively and I’m sure offensively actually believed in the articles and creeds upon which it is built. I don’t want to give up this communion and liturgy, but when the church itself stands in the pulpit and tells me that it isn’t important and Christianity is irrelevant, it’s very difficult to argue.

    • My picture of Jesus is not confined by the cultural priorities of any time. I think his model challenges us to be generous, compassionate, open to the challenge of the Spirit who is always sweeping and opening windows for new ideas, fresh ways of examining old ideas. My idea of the Divine acknowledges that we know very little so in humility and courage, we must find ways to tell the good news that we are called to follow Jesus. I think that means the high challenge of listening to each other, loving each other, forgiving and being forgiven. The great commandment to love each other and in so doing, to love God, is paramount. I offer you peace and thanks for taking the time to comment.

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