The Problem (and the Promise) of the Trinity

One week out of div school and I’m already digging back through my textbooks, trying to remember what it is I spent all that time learning.  This is that sort of Sunday – Trinity Sunday.  “Trinity” is probably a word that every Christian knows, but few understand and even fewer care to understand.  I might be a member of all three groups.  I have certainly heard it and, at various times and to varying degrees, I have understood it, but I have trouble caring, not even enough to remember what I have understood.  So here I sit, digging through a book I swore I would never read again.  Fortunately, it is a tremendous grace that, even in books we don’t care much about, people often write things worth reading.  William Rusch boils the problem of the Trinity down to this: “Through all the turmoil and tomes, there is one basic issue at the center of the debate: What is the relation of the divine in Christ to the divine in the Father?”

I think it is proper to call it the “problem” of the Trinity rather than the “doctrine” of the Trinity.  Truthfully, the question that Rusch identifies has never been adequately answered.  That is to say, even in the final iteration of the doctrine, the real meat of the explanation is consigned to mystery.  There is one God and three persons.  They have always existed together and will always exist together.  They are entirely distinct and entirely the same, not parts of a whole or different representations of a singular entity.  In the end, the Church Universal concedes that this makes no sense.  As the Catholic Encyclopedia says: “Indeed, of all revealed truths [the doctrine of the Trinity] is the most impenetrable to reason.”  Why then should we care?  Or should we?

Remember that anytime we talk about divine mystery, our speech is an approximation, tentative and incomplete.  We construct something, see how it works out and then try again. These mysteries, it turns out, provide a tremendous freedom to play like the vast fecund abyss that Hadewijch uses to talk about both the divine nature and the human soul.  And here, perhaps, is a clue: that in talking about the mysteries, in working them out as a community, we dive deep into the abyss of love and find that, as we do, we discover that the human soul and the divine reality are one and the same.  Perhaps, the answer to Rusch’s question is not in an analysis of persons and natures and contradictory propositions, but in the everyday experience of the great mystery of unity and difference.  What binds us together?  How do we experience that without losing ourselves?  Or should we?  Maybe the problem of the Trinity is really the problem of existence, of knowing that we are different – from each other and from God – but somehow the same – as each other and as God.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we swim in the mystery of the Trinity and celebrate our unity in difference.

Grace & Peace,

Next Series

Trinity Sunday affords a short interlude before beginning our next series, which will be based on the Dorothy Bass book, Receiving the Day.  Our Jubilee conversation focused primarily on economics, but it started with the idea of Sabbath and the reality is that we’re not so good at Sabbath.  As a culture, we are obsessed with use of time; it must be productive and it must be organized.  Dr. Bass asks us to instead think of time as a gift from God and suggests practices for living into that reality.  We will spend five weeks on the book.  We will construct our Sunday services around its wisdom and discuss it on Wednesdays as well.  We hope you will join us!

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