This is part of a developing series – consolidating, clarifying, and (perhaps) expanding ideas presented in this blog. These posts are, as it were, pages in my sketchbook on faith and theology.
Part 1 — God
Part 2 — Bible
Part 3 — Yeshua
Part 4 — Crucifixion
Part 5 — Resurrection
Part 6 — Ascension
Part 7 — Faith
Part 8 — Salvation
While I draw deeply from the wells of a host of significant thinkers and writers, this is a very personal undertaking for which I bear full responsibility for any distortions or mis-use of their ideas.
One of the most complex and confusing theological doctrines is the Trinity. It is complex because it attempts to fuse and explain how three different experiences of mystery are, essentially, one reality. It is confusing because it is based on a particular historical shaping of a discussion about the nature of God. In truth, the doctrine of the Trinity is designed to explain how Yeshua is related to and connected with God.
To attempt to explicate Trinity in today’s theological climate is to shadow box with the absurd. Trinity concerns itself with the nature of divine being – three “persons,” three states of being, but one underlying reality. Process theology and Continental Philosophy have changed the discussion away from the metaphysical ontology of God’s essential nature to a more phenomenological understanding of God as process and/or event.
Some of the great philosophical / theological questions of the past have been: “Who is God?” and “What is the nature of God’s being?” and “How can I prove God’s existence?” and “How is Yeshua God?” Those, however, are not today’s questions. Moreover, the answers provided to those and similar questions haven’t proven to be very helpful.
John Caputo asks a very different question – one which posits the critical philosophical / theological premise that the essence of God is irrelevant. Instead of “Who is God?” Caputo asks “What happens in the name of God?” His conclusion is that insistence happens? There is within us the capacity and the tendency to experience an insistence, an allure, a call. Caputo doesn’t attempt to identify the source of that insistence; he just acknowledges that it is there as an unheard inner voice waiting to be heard (discerned).
Traditionally, that inner manifestation of divine presence is called Spirit or Holy Spirit. The mystics called it Mystery. Rudolph Otto called it the (Holy) Other. Martin Buber called it Thou. From a Jungian perspective it is the collective unconscious of humankind. Caputo calls it the event.
In the Christian church the corporate nature of that insistence is understood as coming from Yeshua as the call to a Way of life shaped by compassion, peace, and tender justice. Yeshua’s call is to a life of discipleship and mission lived out of a commonwealth / community that is identified as basilea theou – that is, the sphere of divine influence.
So there are multiple way to understand that which happens in the name of God. And those ways are not necessarily limited to three. Given the concern for the environment, Mother Nature might be another voice heard within the insistence. Cultural context (ever changing, ever evolving) is another voice that insists. And there are many more. Oh, Yes! One other phenomenon in this equation – the individual in community, those insisted upon, those “called out” (ekklesia). The voice of insistence requires a receiver – one that listens, discerns, and then acts! Insistence heard, discerned, and acted upon is what happens in the name of God. Indeed, that is the only way that the divine mystery becomes activated in the world.
My conclusion: give up trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity and use that time and energy to attend to the insistence. You, others, the world, and even God will be the better for it.