Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Book update: Mutated Faith and the Triune Hub

Happy New Year!
May it bring more bowing of the knee to Christ to the glory of God the Father, in the power and revelation of the indwelling Spirit.

Please take a look at the following picture - it presents a pictorial representation of the proposal I will be making in my book (hopefully 2017 will see it completed):

This is a very amateurish sketch, and there is absolutely no significance about the planets being the planets of our own tiny solar system, or of Venus being circled! That said - this is the kind of idea I would like to convey on the cover. My working title keeps evolving, but I hope it won't move too far from "Trinitarian Interpretations: Mutated Faith and the Triune Hub". Cryptic, huh?

While it represents a long, sometimes painful and unfinished journey for me, it might be a slightly upsetting book for some. In fact - for those who have theological commitments, my historical analysis of first century Christianity is likely to displease most, and seems to fit into no common categories that I am currently aware of. That said, I still need to interact more with Samuel Clarke who I suspect had an early version of the Triune Hub model included in this book.

Trinitarians want to assert that - because Christianity is birthed out of monotheistic Judaism - God himself is the hub around which everything else is in orbit. He is the centre. And then the Son and the Spirit into the mix, ushering a whole host of attempted explanations frequently failing to satisfy. Me? Not just me - even within the Triune-God camp, because they all seem to disagree with one another (that's the second chapter of the book). Another group, also not monolithic, is the Unitarians. They assert strongly that Christ cannot be God, because only the Father is God, and they will also frequently assert that the Spirit is not really something that is separate from the Father. Another group of Unitarians exist - albeit only implicitly, and covers some biblically distant and popular charismatic expressions, whom Richard Rohr describes as Jesusism movements. In these you frequently see the Father and Spirit as just shadows of the One that really matters, Jesus. Believe it or not, that too is Unitarianism - it just doesn't know it.

So what does the first century have to say theologically, with respect to the Old Testament heritage? A lot. A later chapter in the book is going to outline the different contours of the "mutations" of the Jewish faith that permitted early Christianity to still be Jewish, leaning especially on doctors NT Wright and Larry Hurtado. Baptism into the "name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" is a first century diaspora Jewish historical fact. The mutation that I am basically offering is that the Trinity makes a lot more sense when we understand it as a Trinity of design and not a Trinity of essence. If we understand that it is first century Christian faith that is now articulated in Trinitarian language rather than the being of God himself, then suddenly the apparently chaotic chopping and changing between most of the Unitarian and Trinitarian readings of the texts suddenly become still and at peace with one another.

So why did that model get ditched in the fourth century, in favour of a Triune God model? This is quite a complex question. My proposal is not to replace other explanations offered, but to add another angle. Ousia (Greek) and substantia (Latin) afforded the institutionalising Greek-empire-based church the language it needed to ensure that none of the Trinity were dissociated on the most fundamental level possible, which is precisely what some of the intervening heresies would have promoted (or at least allowed for). Although the result is becoming problematic in my view, this enterprise is commendable and has stood the faith very well for centuries. It is most certainly not what Anthony Buzzard describes as "Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound".

Instead of "consubstantial", which I see as distinctly secondary in light of this research, I therefore propose "co-central". I am also very fond of the orthodox term "co-essential", although again, with reference to the faith. There is so much more to say, and some of which will indeed be said in the book, but I thought it might interest blog readers where this key chapter will go. In light of that, let's just notice something from the picture that I think could really appeal to the Triune-God advocates - the planets orbiting these Three, have a single orbit, experience one main gravitational pull, have a single centre comprising three Stars. I can only hope this contribution will lead to fruitful discussion in the ongoing Trinitarian conversation and not fresh Star Wars ;)


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