6.23.2006

What can we change now?

Been listening to Way of the Master Radio. A lot. The Presbyterian Church USA recently met for a convention. A lot of churches are doing that lately. One of the resolutions that came up at the convention involved a benchmark of Christianity - the Trinity. The fundamental doctrine espoused in the Nicean Creed that the Godhead is composed of three individual, distinct persons/personalities with one fundamental essence and being: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Presbyterian Charles Wiley feels that the Trinity needs to be "Reclaimed". It is apparent from his writing that the "Father, Son, Holy Spirit" is really just an analogy but it is outdated so any analogical approach is good and we need to come up with more terms to express the Trinity. Et cetera. Mr. Wiley even has developed a set of rules to guide the formation of new Trinity threesomes.
We are able to draw from the well of Scripture to enrich the ways we speak of God and to God. This liberating approach also demands discipline. We cannot "pick one from column a, one from column b and one from column c," as if any three terms can express Trinity. Are there "rules" to be followed, then? Yes. In the same manner that grammar rules help us to be clear about what we say, the rules of Trinitarian language help us to be faithful to what we believe. In that spirit, I propose three rules:
  1. The three terms must have an inner relationship.
  2. The terms must either be personal or functionalĂ‚—the two should not be mixed.
  3. Functional terms cannot replace personal terms, but can amplify and enrich our understanding of God.
As might be expected, they have come up with some very far-out "versions" of the Trinity (this includes those on thePC-USAA website and a few others I have heard on this basis):
  • The One to Whom, the One by Whom, and the One in Whom we offer our praise
  • Speaker, Word and Breath
  • Overflowing Font, Living Water, Flowing River
  • Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child and Life-giving Womb
  • Our Sun, Ray and Warmth
  • Lover, Beloved, Love
  • Rock, Cornerstone and Temple
  • The Fire that Consumes, the Hammer that Breaks, the Storm that Melts Mountains
Okay, the last one is not that bad, but it still should not be used to "Reclaim the Trinity". But "Our Sun, Ray, and Warmth"? And "Mother, Child, Womb"? Is it just me, or do I detect a little attempt to introduce feminism here? "Lover, Beloved, Love"? This is getting sticky here. God is not a big ball of fire in the sky that keeps us warm. He is not Mommy. And He is not the cosmic girlfriend/boyfriend either. He is an awesome, just, powerful Creator and Judge whose wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. Yes, God loves you. But it isn't a pampering love. I repeat, God is NOT your cosmic girlfriend with a human-shaped hole in His heart. The love that He has is a perfecting love - He sacrificed His life so that our debt to justice would be paid and we could grow to be like Him. Get it straight, Mr. Wiley. I am sure that you meant well. But this is too important to miss. If you want to find out more about how the Trinity "works", check out my article on the subject. So do you think that the PC-USA went overboard in voting to accept "Mother, Child, Womb" as a "Reclamation" of the Trinity? "PC" ... Politically Correct? How about Biblically Correct? In Him, David S. MacMillan III

3 comments:

RC said...

isn't this the bizarrest thing you've seen in forever...i think it's absolutly crazy.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I would be curious if these people actually believe what they say. If they don't, this is a very dangerous place to play around with God. He takes teachers who lead others astray seriously.

Charles Wiley said...

I won't attempt to defend myself or the PCUSA in full, but just to post a few comments:
1) consider reading the article at: http://www.pcusa.org/today/believe/past/may05/trinity.htm and see if I posit Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as just another analogy.
2) You might be interested in the citations for some of the triads you find so difficult:
Sun, Ray, and Burning Light (St. John of Damascus)
Lover, Beloved, and the Love that Binds them Together (St. Augustine)

If you want to go through the argument systematically, I'm game.

Charles