A Relevant Doctrine of the Trinity
A Relevant Doctrine of the Trinity
(I like a Challenge)
People long, long ago developed the notion of the Triune God to answer questions they had about the nature of God and God’s relationship to creation. We don’t seem to share their questions and so their answers seem useless. Really, even though the Church still affirms the Doctrine of the Trinity we pretty much ignore it. Those of us who have imbibed the rationalism of the Modern Age, no longer believe that there is in any literal fashion, a “Father God” out there somewhere who had a “Son,” and so we really don’t care whether this “Father” and his “Son” are made of the same substance or not. That was a big deal in 325 CE, but now it seems like an arcane notion that has little to do with a context of meaning in which we live our lives.
Initially however, the doctrine of the Trinity had a great deal to do with the context of meaning in which people lived their lives. The question is, as modernism has deconstructed the myth or even the being of the Trinitarian God, is there anything left? Does the Trinitarian God have any relevance in our world? The people who debated and fought over the doctrine of the Trinity were trying to understand the circumstances of their own lives in relationship to the creator, to understand the ebb and flow of life, the brutality and the beauty. They happened to be working this out within the living tradition of Judaism but they weren’t the only people trying to answer these questions. From the beginning of human history people have worked to understand the mystery, to establish a framework of faith and practice that would sustain them and offer a context of meaning in which to live their lives.
What fascinates me is that while our ideas about God and our answers to these fundamental questions about purpose and creative power differ wildly in their details, it is also true that all over the world, no matter our stage of development, we humans seem to point in the same general directions when describing our experience of the Divine. Though the details differ, we talk about a first-person relationship to the Divine, an “I-Am” relationship that is characteristic of many Eastern traditions. We also, all over the world, find ways to describe a second-person relationship to the Divine, an “I-Thou” relationship that is characteristic of the Judeo-Christian traditions. Finally, we also describe a third-person relationship to the Divine, an “I-It” relationship characteristic of so many indigenous traditions. While these different traditions may emphasize one of these relationships over the others, it seems they all have a place for each of these relationship dynamics.
It turns out that the people who wrestled out the Doctrine of the Trinity had an intuition of that. They knew they experienced God in three ways, but they also had some deep intuition that there was but one God. With these two commitments in mind, the Doctrine of the Trinity, a doctrine that was never logically coherent, was born.
From our position on this side of the modernist deconstruction we can see that the myth which underpins the Doctrine of the Trinity is not literally true, but that does not mean it has nothing to offer. To the contrary, it has a great deal to offer us when we open our minds and our hearts to what it says about these three relationship dynamics as we too seek to understand the circumstances of our own lives in relationship to the creator, to understand the ebb and flow of life, the brutality and its beauty. This class seeks not only to explore each of these three relationship dynamics, though it will do so, but the class will also provide opportunities for each of us to expand our own faith and practice. The love-intelligence that animates creation’s story has always called to us in three ways. We will make the effort to respond, guided by the insights of this ancient doctrine, but using language that is intelligible to those of us on this side of the modernist deconstruction of faith.