Trinity as a S’more

I heard this way of considering the Trinity for the first time recently from a co-worker.

If you take out the graham cracker, chocolate, or the marshmallow, you do not have a s’more. Each is integral to the reality of the s’more.

Each person of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is integral to the reality of the Trinitarian God of Christianity.

While I am more of a fan of using scripture to consider the Trinity (i.e. Mark 1:9-11, Jesus’ Baptism), I found this to be a pretty decent novel explanation.

Will you please share your response to this way of considering the Trinity?

Discussions on The Shack

Last night, I had a great time leading over 100 people in discussions on the book, The Shack by William Paul Young. Thanks to all of you who were there.

You can find the handout, notes and schedule that I had prepared before the class at this link. Feel free to use it to lead a class of your own or for your own information.

One of the best parts of the class was the opportunity to respond to questions from those who were there. Below you will find all the questions that were asked by the group. Look for my response to questions beginning today and continuing on Monday.

So the collective wisdom of the crowd led to these questions in no particular order:

  • When did the vision take place? (when did it begin – at mailbox or at car accident)
  • What was the significance of red spots on rock when they found her – any Christian signifiance?
  • How does the church react to the portrayal of the Trinithy and their characteristics? i.e. God as a black woman, the group as a fun loving, joking entity as a whole.
  • Is there a part of the book that may be theologically incorrect?
  • Explain the character of the Holy Spirit Sarayu.
  • Comment on the books view of the trinity and perspective on lack of hierarchy.
  • The book’s viewpoint on eternal consequences is challenging and hard to accept.
  • Where would this book misguide (mislead) me in knowing God?
  • Would the church recommend this book to nominally religious people?
  • Why was God a woman? Why did He reveal Himself that way?
  • A lot of people suffer in grief… What about Mack’s opportunity to view his daughter after her passing?
  • What is the background of the author?
  • Why do you think Mack didn’t take his wife to the shack?
  • From your perspective, what aspects of the book are not compatible with Methodist theology and tradition?
  • Does the church have any problem with Poppa being portrayed as a woman? And is She really a good cook?
  • Does the church have a problem with all of the members of the trinity being on equal standing?
  • Was the accident before he went to the Shack? (Friday vs. Sunday)
  • Is it sacreligious to put God in another form? (for instance, Papa as an African American woman)
  • What is your perspective as clergy regarding the comment that this book is dangerous for “babes in Christ?”
  • Where does it not fit into theology?
  • What mentioned theological things did you disagree with?
  • Responsibility named in the BIble?
  • P. 205 – Does religion use law to empower itself and control people?
  • Was this a dream? a vision? or reality?
  • How do you like how the trinity was presented?
  • Do we expect too much of people we love? Agree or disagree
  • Why was Papa (God) against organized religion?
  • What was the significance of the description of the characters?
  • How was shack transformed from place of evil and Missy’s suffering and death into a place of God’s sanctuary and salvation?
  • Was it a dream or did it really happen?
  • What was the author’s purpose of giving to the character’s their role, name, etc. so out of the unusual than what we would normally think of?
  • Why did she call him Papa?
  • What was the author’s denomination?
  •  What gave him the idea for the story had he experienced something in his background – autobiographical?
  • What theology do you feel does not align in the group?
  • P 99-100 What was Jesus true nature while on earth with regard to healing?
  • Papa being a female. Why?
  • Why was food so important?
  • Elaborate on noun verse verb? pg 205-206
  • Elaborate on being a Christina? pg 183-184
  • Explain who Sophia is?
  • Thoughts on God being depicted as a woman.
  • Was Mack’s experience a dream or did God suspend time?
  • Where the book conflicts with the UM beliefs?
  • What does “The Shack” represent?
  • Why doesn’t God make Himself more real and visible to us like He does in the book?
  • How do we cultivate and accept that kind of intimacy with God? (cooking, eating, etc.)
  • When we die will we see and will God present in accordance with our personalview of how we envision him / her?
  • Does God punish evil on earth or does he / she wait until the evil doer is judged or dies (Chapter 11)
  • How do you think the author came up with the characters to represent God, Jesus and Spirit?
  • What is your response / opinion of when Mack asked Missy if she was in Heaven and she said she “was in the waiting room.”

How should I relate to my gay child?

I received this question from a blog reader like you. Do you have a question? Check out this post to let me know.

Here is a comment are excerpts from a comment that I received on a post this month:

Andrew,  I have something that I need to comment about and to ask your opinion on.  I have two children that I love very much.  My son is educated, kind and very well established in his profession.  He is also gay, although not “looking” for a partner.  He is very religious and in fact led us to COR.  He has since been transferred [out of state] and I miss him so much.  [He] has been influential in my spiritual growth by his deep faith in Jesus even though he is not accepted by most Christians.  I must admit that I was one of the “holier than thou” people and I rejected him for several years.  I so regret my actions. …

At first I thought God had surely turned His back on me since my two children were not the”norm”.  I now feel chosen to have them in my family.  I am blessed each day by having known them and feel called by God to have them in my family.  I have grown to love so much more deeply by having known and loved them.  Please pray for the World to love and accept them.

I do not have any better response on how to relate to your son than the one that you expressed already. I do not believe that one’s sexual orientation has a correlation to one’s discipleship nor necessarily to family relationships.

I believe that a person of any sexual orientation can be on the journey of becoming a deeply committed Christian.

I believe that a person of any sexual orientation can have positive relationships with family and friends.

How should one relate to a gay child? As you would relate to any of one’s children. Love, care and respect.

Relationship with the Son and Holy Spirit

What is a correct relationship between the Son / Holy Spirit and me? Who can I depend on for strength in time of weakness?

I believe that it is faithful to consider yourself a child of God the Father, a sister or brother of God the Son and as one living with God the Holy Spirit alive within you.

Can I depend on God the Father or God the Son or God the Holy Spirit in time of weakness? I believe the answer to this is yes. We may find ourselves in different times of crisis relating to God in different ways, but I believe that all persons of Trinity are in relationship with us and offer strength in the times of weakness or crisis.

I encourage you to chose a few passages below and reflect on your relationship with God. What are your thoughts? How do you most often relate to God?

Child of God the Father

  • Luke 20:27-39
  • John 1:1-13
  • Romans 8:1-28
  • Galatians 3:23-4:7
  • Hebrews 12:4-13
  • 1 John 3:1-10
  • 1 John 5:1-12
  • Revelation 21:1-8

Sister or brother of God

  • Jesus interaction with his family
    • Matthew 12:46-50
    • Mark 3:20-34
    • Luke 8:19-21
  • Jesus urge to the women to tell his brothers the news of the resurrection
    • Matthew 28:1-10
    • John 20:1-18
  • Hebrews 2:5-14

God the Holy Spirit living within you

  • Romans 8:1-17
  • 2 Corinthians 2:12-3:6
  • 1 Peter 2:4-9

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”

Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

Are there any references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament?

The particular understanding of the Holy Spirit as a person of the Trinity comes out of thought around the revelation of Jesus Christ. Thinking about the relationships between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not something that originate out of the Old Testament, but were formed by Christians thinking about God as most clearly revealed in Jesus Christ and what this might mean. However, there are certainly places in the Old Testament in which the spirit of God is referenced. One prominent example of this is in Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:1-2, TNIV.

The reference to the Spirit of God in this passage has clear resonance with reference to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. One can translate spirit in English from the Hebrew ruah, Greek pneuma or Latin spiritus.

Is the Holy Spirit directly referenced in the Old Testament? There is none of which I am aware. Is the Spirit of God referenced in the Old Testament? Absolutely.

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”

Equality of the Three Persons

Is the Holy Spirit equal to the Father and the Son or is it a go-between? Diagrams…

This question included a drawing of my description of a way of Visualizing the Trinity that Thomas Weinandy’s thesis might suggest. I think that this question points out a possible weakness in this way of thinking about the relationships between the persons. It does seem to put a lower importance on the person of the Holy Spirit.

In answer to your question – I believe that the Holy Spirit is no less than the Father and the Son a person of the Trinity. I recognize my own tendency to assign the Holy Spirit a lesser role as I am less familiar with talking and thinking about the Holy Spirit – as a result of my background in the United Methodist Church vs a background that may put more emphasis on the Holy Spirit (i.e. a more charismatic tradition).

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”

Explaining the Trinity

With the idea of the Trinity being so easy to say “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” I want some pointers on how to begin explaining to somebody that doesn’t understand (as much as I try to). How do you correct people that say that there can’t be the three separate things and one God?

I think that any attempt to enter into conversation about the Trinity is better than dismissing the question. The Bible does not fully outline what it means to understand God as Trinity, but the Bible is our starting point and ultimately the best resource for learning about God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.

Trinitarianism is a part of the structure of the gospel. It is expressed in the baptism of Jesus as found in the Gospels.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17, TNIV

The baptism of Jesus occurs in all four of the Gospels and provides an example of the Trinitarian nature of God. Jesus is the Son as referred to by the voice from heaven. The Son implies that there is a parent. This is the one who pronounces the words upon Jesus. The Spirit is seen descending like a dove. For other scriptural references you might check here.

Another way that you might approach this question is to think of the relationships between the persons of the Trinity as what brings life and a deeper way of understanding. Each of the persons is given shape by the relationship to the other (For more a more detailed explanation check out deviantmonk‘s comment on Physics of the Trinity)

How else would you respond? What have you found to be helpful in your own understanding?

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”

Activity of the Son

I see the Father and the Holy Spirit as still active but just see the Son as by God’s side. Can you explain how the three are still active today? Is the son’s role over after his death and resurrection?

I believe that God is very active in the world in many different ways and most importantly in bringing God’s kingdom into reality. As to the activity of each of the three persons of the Trinity see Immanent and Economic Trinity.

The Son’s role is not over after death and resurrection. I asked my wife, Nicole, about this and she reminded me that anywhere we see resurrection the power of Jesus Christ is at work in the world. At the death of a loved one, the power of Christ is active in bringing hope that this life is not all there is. When a middle age person decides that her or his life is headed in the wrong direction and makes drastic changes toward living as a disciple, Christ is drawing the person into relationship.

I think that the Son’s activity today may also be thought about in Jesus’ final words in the gospel according to Matthew:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20, TNIV

All authority on heaven and on earth have been given to the Son and this is why we are sent to make disciples, baptize and teach. Not only that, but Jesus promises presence with us until the end of time.

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”

Immanent and Economic Trinity

Could you explain further immanent and economic Trinity? I am still confused about the difference and how they relate. Are they two different Trinities or just two aspects of one Trinity?

There is one Trinity and the terms immanent and economic are ways for us to think about the Trinity. Referring to the immanent Trinity is a way of referring to God’s eternal existence and the internal relationships between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Referring to the economic Trinity is a way of considering God’s activity in creation.

One way of thinking about the economic Trinity is to think of the…

  • Father as creator.
  • Son as redeemer.
  • Holy Spirit as sustainer.

I think that these descriptions may be helpful but at the same time do not leave much room for mystery. I am not satisfied with this way of assigning tasks to each person of the Trinity, because in the unity of the Trinity all persons are active in each of these roles as well as in many different ways

I believe that the way that God exists eternally (immanent Trinity) is the way that God is active in the world (economic Trinity) and vice versa. I do not believe that God acts in creation in a different way than God exists eternally.

What do you think?

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?