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?

The Becoming of G-d

The Becoming of G-d by Ian Mobsby is a wandering look at the nature of God as Trinity, ecclesiology, spirituality and the interactions thereof. The Becoming of G-d is Mobsby’s second book and was published in May 2008. From Mobsby’s website:

Ian Mobsby is one of the founding members of the Moot Community with past involvement in two previous alt worship/emerging church communities. Ian is an ordained Anglican priest working with Moot full time in the Diocese of London, an associate Missioner of the Church of England Archbishop’s Fresh Expressions Team, and an associate lecturer of the St Paul’s Theological Centre in London.

Mobsby touches on a wide variety of topics in The Becoming of G-d. I found his treatment of perichoresis (interpenetration) and kenosis (pouring out) in regard to the Trinity to be particularly interesting. Mobsby ranges from Rublev’s Trinity, models of the church, and the becoming of community, belonging, forgiveness, hope and justice. Mobsby is aware of and addresses common critiques of the models that he proposes.

Mobsby touches on a wide variety of topics but manages to keep them connected and related to the Trinity. The writing is a bit rough and in need of editing in places, but this manages to lend authenticity and rawness. I recommend this book for those interested or exploring newer ways of being church and are ready for a scavenger hunt of connections to the Trinity, both inside and outside the church.

Guest Blog – Deviant Monk

This is a guest post from deviant monk. I recommend both his blog and podcast. Would you like to guest blog at Thoughts of Resurrection?

If he were still alive, St. Augustine would almost certainly listen to the podcast

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (I John 4:16)

Charity is a word we use with very specific connotations. To speak of offering charity is usually to give some money or resources to somebody who is poor, less fortunate, hard pressed.

It is also fairly easy to abstract. We can involve ourselves in charity through organizations that are committed to such a thing, without really having to engage in the act of charity; the dirty work, so to speak, of offering it personally.

Charity comes from the Latin ‘caritas.’ ‘Caritas‘, however, doesn’t mean ‘charity’ as we think of charity, but actually means ‘love.’ The first three words of I John 4:16 are Deus caritas est– God is love.

Love, of course, is defined by many different people in many different ways- we speak of loving our children in one breath and in the next about loving our favorite kind of chocolate. It can be provoked by passion, prodded by biology, produced by sensation.

But Christian love- caritas– differs from many of the ways in which we think of love. Not necessarily by means of exclusion, but certainly by means of origination. To believe that God is love is to acknowledge a source of love, and to acknowledge that source of love is to recognize that, apart from it, there is no fullness of love, there is no fullness of caritas.

Pope Benedict says in his Encyclical Deus Caritas Est

We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction…Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbour found in the Book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. Since God has first loved us, love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.

To love begins with the understanding that we have first been loved by God. But let’s not begin with abstraction- let’s begin personally. I have been loved by God. I am loved by God. The profundity of this is easy to miss, unless you stop and contemplate the complete gratuity of God’s love. In this gift of self to humanity, God has made us- made me- in His image. It doesn’t take long to connect the dots- if I am loved by God, and made in the image of the God who is love and who gives love, then the purpose of my image-ness is to love. And not only to love God, but to love the image of God wherever I find it.

It is in this realization that the abstraction we so easily apply to charity begins to be broken away. I can no longer be content to ‘give’ to charity; the act of charity becomes an image of God’s gift of love to us. Those to whom I give in caritas cannot be nameless faces- to truly realize my own image-ness is to truly realize theirs as well. Pope Benedict says:

Love of neighbour is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern.

Christian love pulls together two things that are often pulled apart- love for God and love for my neighbor. In my church we often use the language of holding together the evangelical gospel and the social gospel. However, in love that comes from God, it is impossible to have one without the other. You can’t simply love God without acting in love towards others; likewise, you cannot truly love others without having encountered the God who first loved you. James mockingly challenges our dualism when he says

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

In a similar manner, Pope Benedict says

If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God. But if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be “devout” and to perform my “religious duties”, then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely “proper”, but loveless. Only my readiness to encounter my neighbour and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me.

The kind of love, the kind of charity that God wants from us begins with encountering God, for Christian love can only come from God. Within this transformative union our charity burns with the fire of the love that God gave to us, and the love that God gave to us is is stoked by the love we give to others. In this life of love, we find a metaphor for the Trinity, as Augustine said:

If you see charity, you see the Trinity.

So may we love with the caritas that comes from God.

May we give ourselves to others in love, to find that we open ourselves to receive more love from God.

May we encounter the God of love, and allow the love he gives to us to blossom in our hearts and in our hands.

Reflecting on the Trinity

I have thoroughly enjoyed thinking and writing about the Trinity this week. Thanks to Kim and Kyle for the invitation to be a part of the Sunday morning small group taster out of which these questions originated. For more information about the source of these questions read the post – What is the Trinity?

My sincere thanks to each person in the taster who submitted a question and who were a part of the discussion. We are all theologians.

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?”

Visualizing the Trinity

What is the best way to visualize or explain the Trinity to someone?

Let me say first, that an attempt to diagram the Trinity is quite ridiculous. There is no way that God can be circumscribed in words or pictures. However, I do think that it is faithful to seek to understand and what follows are some thoughts on that journey. Most of this text was first written as part of a credo paper that I wrote for a systematic theology course in seminary.

My best understanding of a way to visualize the Trinity has been most influentially formed through a book written by Thomas Weinandy.

Weinandy, Thomas G. The Father’s Spirit of Sonship: Reconcieving the Trinity. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994.

WeinandyWeinandy’s central thesis is that within the Trinity, the Father begets the Son in or by the Holy Spirit, who then proceeds from the Father as the one in whom the Son is begotten. An attempt at diagramming this relationship is found to the left.

Each person of the Trinity is identified by and in relationship to the others. It is not possible for one to be present without relationship to and in the presence of the others. The eternal Father eternally begets the Son and spirates the Holy Spirit. In a sense, the Holy Spirit is the breath with which the Father eternally speaks the Word (Son). (Weinandy, The Father’s Spirit of Sonship, 75) This explanation is consistent with scripture. It is evident at key times in the narrative of the life of Jesus Christ: birth, baptism, cross and resurrection. For example, on the cross, the Spirit enables the Son to cry out Abba to the Father. At the time of greatest need, Jesus’ Son is able to cry out through the Spirit to the Father (Weinandy, The Father’s Spirit of Sonship, 29). This description also includes an active role to and for the Holy Spirit within the Trinity. This conception of the trinity is one that all traditions of Christianity, including Orthodox and Roman, may be able to affirm.

Here is also an attempt to visualize the differing understandings of Eastern and Western Christianity.

East

East:

  • The Son and the Spirit as the two hands of the Father
  • Monarchy of the Father is emphasized
  • Emphasis on three distinct persons in unity
West

West:

  • Emphasis on the unity of three persons
  • Spirit proceeds from the Son and the Father
  • Augustinian beliefs
    • Father is the Lover.
    • Son is the Beloved
    • Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and Son.

Bibliography
Soulen, R. Kendall. “Systematic Theology I.” Wesley Theological Seminary. 14 October 2004.
Weinandy, Thomas G. The Father’s Spirit of Sonship: Reconcieving the Trinity. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994.

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?”

Grasping the Trinity

How do you feel about the Trinity? How long did it take for you to start to get a grasp of it?

I feel good about the Trinity. I agree with deviantmonk in the comment on Physics of the Trinity.

As far as I’m concerned, [the Trinity is] the bedrock of Christian theology, worldview, ethics, and whatever else.

As far as getting a grasp of the Trinity, I believe that there is really only a continual journey deeper into the mystery. The more I think I know the more I realize I do not know. However, I would say that beginning to grasp the concept of the Trinity started thinking about analogies (some of which were mentioned at the taster), such as neapolitan ice cream, a shamrock, water in three phases. However, I do caution these comparisons as greatly lacking and should not be the end of seeking to understand. I think that the most faithful way of understanding the Trinity is to begin with the narrative of scripture.

Different forms of this question were common – look for some additional thoughts on this topic soon.

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?”

Belief in the Trinity

Do you think it is important to God that we believe we understand the Holy Trinity or do you think He wants us to constantly be trying to understand?

I think that it is important that we have faith that seeks understanding of the Trinity and many other theological concepts – atonement, salvation, forgiveness. Some of these we experience, some of these we seek to understand, and for many of them we do both. In regard to the Trinity, I believe that it is more important to seek a relationship and experience interaction than to think about or try to understand.

I do not think that it is a faithful response to say that we fully understand the Trinity. I think that there is a balance between knowing / understanding and fully understand the Trinity. Our journey at Resurrection is one of knowing, loving and serving God and this is a journey that will likely not be complete in this life.

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?

Physics of the Trinity

Please walk me through the physics of the Trinity.

I believe that the Trinity exists in a way of being that is quite different from the way of existence that we understand as humans. I do not think that there is any way of understanding the Trinity in terms of physics. I would certainly not claim to be able to articulate the physics of the Trinity.

The Trinity certainly has the ability to act outside of the laws of physics. For example, the belief in creation out of nothing is something that God accomplished yet is far outside the understandings of modern physics.

What do you think? This is the best I’ve got…

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?”