Saturday, April 21, 2007

I am Triune

Something concerning the Trinity put a hook in me.

First, I will explain what led up to the reflection. I was raised in a Trinitarian belief. I attend a church with a Trinitarian belief about God. I however, don't see the big important truth in Trinitarian thought. The thing I am supposed to get, I don't think I ever got. I don't mean conceptualizing the Trinity, everyone's quick to admit that can't be done. But nobody I've come across has anything that compelling to say about why the doctrine of the Trinity exists, why it's so important that we adhere to the belief, what it does for faith and practice, or even how to make a compelling Biblical case for it. Of course that doesn't mean there isn't anything compelling to say. I assume. I mean, somebody, somewhere, sometime, must have had some reason for believing in Trinity.

I should qualify at this point that I have not read about the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, but it's on my list.

The hook: In matters that are incomprehensible, like particle-wave theory, or space-time, or matter-energy unity, it appears that the way people arrive at their conclusion is inductive rather than deductive. Since we can't "see" the conclusion, since our minds can't get around it, we have to work with what is observable, and make conclusions about what must be true based on the evidence. Light behaves like a particle. It also behaves like a wave. Thus it must be both, as far-flung and beyond my grid as that seems.

Maybe there are a few gifted folks from history who can grasp a little of it. The Newtons, the Einsteins, the Hawkings. But for the rest of us, at least for those in the habit of asking questions, there's got to be some way of think about these things instead of simply accepting the doctrinaire's position. This is probably where the practices of silence and solitude can help.

While I can't see the Trinity, I can see myself. I know that my most fundamental identity is beloved- I am he within whom God has initiated life, sustains and protects life, out of the desire that I should be alive and know him. I am built a certain way. I receive love in a number of different ways. Can we distill these multitudes of ways into a few categories?

1. I need to receive love from the community- I am dead unless I belong to people. Horizontal love is the evidence of my inclusion in the collective, the community. Receiving it properly insures my ability to give it properly when the time comes. Two children play in a sandbox. When one shares his toy with the other, a building block in the conditioned framework for regarding the needs of others slides into place. A lifetime of this kind of healthy interaction produces a congruency in the manifest self with the self as it exists in the mind of God- that of a person whose nature is to receive and give love to, from, and among his peers.

2. I need to receive love from above. My socialization, especially as a child, depends strongly on the affirmation I receive from those wiser, older, more experienced, more capable. Parents(perhaps uniquely, fathers), teachers, and mentors are among the most prevalent. Barring that, an adoptive parental figure, or an elder who chooses to put a significant stake in my development, namely by loving me personally and authoritatively.

3. I need to receive love from myself. The relationship with self is perhaps the hardest to see, and therefore the least acknowledged(thus the marginalized role of the Holy Spirit, in practice, for many Christians???). Self-love(and I'm writing off-the-cuff here, so I may reverse my opinion later) follows from Above-love and Community-love. The ones who are the most convinced that they are beautiful are the ones who have been affirmed in it by their parents and their community. Without self-love we are doomed to constantly add stuff onto our persons, and think of the stuff as what makes us good and lovable. True self-love is demonstrated in self-forgetfulness, unwavering conviction that we are worth being friends with, that we are holy beings, and that we are capable of startlingly great things. And all without the slightest aquiescence to the need for attention, praise, and self-deification.

So we have Above-love, realized in the Father; Community-love, realized in the horizontal love of the Son; and Self-love, realized in the inward love of the Holy Spirit. Triune love reveals itself to me, and defines me. As far as I can tell then, the most compelling witness to Trinity is the inner witness, and the witness of the world around us, not the Biblical witness. The Biblical witness seems to attest to it after the fact- once it has already been established by opening our eyes. The best evidence that God is Triune is, quite simply, I am triune. And if God made me, loves me, and has come to meet me, then he has to do so with regard to my nature. Thus God must be triune. The small puzzle piece fits into all the numerous and diverse pieces surrounding it.

Augustine, they say, was theocentric instead of Christocentric. As far as I can tell that means he arrived at Christ through transcendent God, rather than at transcendent God through Christ. Pretty much unheard of in most churches, with their alter calls to put faith in Christ that they may know God; maybe there's something we need to recover here. Could we possibly understand revelation(i.e. Trinitarian doctrine) more thoroughly if we began with God Undescribable and followed the path from there, through what we see around us? This instead of beginning with the Trinity(or some other revelation), and trying to mash and misshape the facts around us so they will fit into the creed we profess. This method, I've noticed, doesn't exactly evoke the sympathy of critically-minded onlookers. Not that that evoking their sympathy is that important, of course.

But wouldn't it be neat if people thought that Christians were intelligent?

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