Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Trinity is Still My Name
(Conversations with Bob! Step right up and get your religion!)
It will be no surprise to readers of Shuck and Jive that I am not too swift when it comes to theological speculation.
Over the years I have developed a fondness for the Trinity, and I confess the Trinity as an article of faith, and I use Trinitarian language in worship, even though I have no idea what I am doing at the conscious level.
I get turned off when metaphors are pushed beyond their power to be evocative. Explaining the Trinity is kind of like explaining a joke. I don't mean to say the Trinity is a joke, what I mean is that you "get it" or you don't. It is language that either resonates with your experience or it doesn't. No amount of explanation helps me very much.
We can look at the historical development of the doctrine. It is interesting to see how the church ancestors tried to figure out how Jesus fit into the scheme of things. Three "persons" in one and so forth. Throughout the speculative and political struggles, one explanation after another was shown to be "wrong." Finally the Nicene Creed got it just right and anyone who thinks differently is out of the club. It is all so much speculation. Speculation about what? The ultimate theory of everything? The nature of whatever it is we are thinking when we call what Is, God? Whatever it is we are talking about, we are using human language and thought forms. We are using metaphors.
As much as I get a kick out of these conversations with Bob, I don't think anyone reading or commenting is missing the subtext of these conversations. We are talking about power. Who gets control of religious language? Who gets to say whose metaphors are correct and whose are incorrect? It is about drawing lines of who is in and who is out. Of course the big struggle is over the clergy, because ultimately they are the ones who control the language. It is therefore important to keep the right clergy in and keep the wrong clergy out. We are no longer searching for Truth, if we ever were. We are fighting for control over who gets to claim the name Christian and subsequently its institutional power. Just thought I would add this as my attempt to name what is happening in the Church and what has always happened in the Church.
Now, back to the Trinity. The metaphors for God in the Trinity, Father and Son (Spirit, also traditionally understood as a Him), is male language. We have then, of course, the problem of patriarchy. When God is male, the male is God. The Trinity paper, God's Love Overflowing, was a mild attempt to introduce other metaphors while still hanging on to the symbol of three in one.
I do find that the Trinity resonates with my experience of God. The symbol of three is very powerful. Also, the sense that the character or the heart of God is found in the person and work of Jesus. The love of enemies, justice for the poor and oppressed, and reconciliation of division, that Jesus proclaimed and lived is what God is like. This Truth and Goodness is also within and among Creation through Spirit.