Friday, 13 February 2015

It's so not obvious

It strikes me as amazing how unwilling some people are to examine their own lenses. They are often keen to know and teach the truth, yet they should know that information entering and processed by our minds is so powerfully affected by the lenses. Here is an example: I can be 100% certain that of those who believe in the 4th-Century version of the doctrine of the Trinity, of three consubstantial, co-eternal, coequal persons in one supreme God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (who are not each other), each and every one were taught it. OK maybe a slightly expanded version for some, but there we go. I cannot be nearly so sure of other central doctrines: the creation, Jesus Christ, Lord and saviour, the resurrection, the second coming. Why? Because someone reading this might believe in those aspects of the Christian faith simply from having found them in a Bible.

And yet, along with (or perhaps crowning) those more explicit statements of belief, the Trinity is central to most mainstream churches and is interwoven, at times very poorly indeed, into our doxology and prayer-life. It is everywhere, in fact. Except one crucial place - at least in its "everywhereness".

I want to put this now into perspective. Let us imagine that we are among the 3000 mentioned in Acts that rapidly became followers of the Way, but that this all happened at the close of 2014. We now follow Jesus, he is our true Lord, we can call on him, although we mainly still devote our pray lives to God, whom Jesus so powerfully revealed as Father, we receive God's Holy Spirit, we see God working powerfully in many ways and many lives and situations are transformed. We have life. We have joy. We have forgiveness. We experience belonging and hope. The Messiah has come at last as God had promised, he has even shown us what God is like. Yes, for within a decade or three, in fact we have powerful teachers who even expound that Jesus perfectly represented and reflected God here on Earth. Some of us have started to "fall asleep" already, but our children are getting the picture, Jesus Christ's reign and kingdom and authority are forever, because they are God-appointed. However, in almost every case, our leading spiritual authorities of the Way are careful to make distinctions between God himself and Jesus. No-one believes in or talks about anything like the Holy Trinity... in fact, for people to believe and discuss that this is central (and required) is going to take another 300 years, approximately the year 2314.

So for people who think that this is a simple affair, or was a simple affair, they are missing out a crucial point: this doctrine, as beautiful and defensible as we might find it now, is not obvious, since neither our children, nor our children's children would have believed in it with the same scriptures we have and use now. Our children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's would be starting to make that breakthrough however three centuries from now.

Food for thought.

UPDATE: An exchange with Trinities collaborator Chad McIntosh, leads me to think that while I may have agreement from my trinitarian friends about some kind of a progressive revelation over the first three centuries (so possibly OK on the not-obvious argument), I probably do not have their agreement that it is not natural. My couter-argument to that is probably going to centre around McIntosh's own group-persons theory. If we were made for this kind of relationship with the One who is Three, and that is natural, then why would some church traditions need to either:
- simply collapse the trinity into Christ, who is Father, is the Son and the Holy Spirit, or
- name this group-identity "Jesus", while still keeping some underlying (or annexed) understanding of Father, Son and Holy Spirit distinctions ?

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