This was a rambling mess. Mead, you usually make excellent arguments or explore an intellectual issue with insight. This… was… a mess. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and credit the mess to the object and not the subject.
The Holy Trinity is an obvious kludge attempting to make sense of dirt-stupid nonsense. So your attempt to make it sensible is gibberish, but I suppose that’s to be expected, given the topic.
What I don’t get is why an otherwise exceptionally intellignet and percipient human adult wouldn’t “get it”. The obviously correct solution is: ”
Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, there is no God to be the Son of, and the Christianity Grift is one of many. many, many religious swindles used by conmen to extract money and power from the vulnerable, the gullible, and the stupid.
Oh, one last thing. Even if one WAS to make the Trinity “sensible” in some way, how would the narrative work again? Yahweh made a baby boy that was really Yahweh, the grown boy did miracles and was crucified for our sins and suffered mightily for like 2 days, Yahweh took him to heaven but He’s coming back some day. Huh. Sadistic father, whiny son, lying word.
The Trinity certainly is a contentious doctrine, but in many ways among the most exciting of Christian doctrines. I imagine most thinking Christians have attempted to come to terms with it, and WRM’s point about linking love and community are very important ones for a deeper understanding of its meaning. For my own meager purposes I like to think back to that old fable about the child asking several wise persons, usually representatives of various religious traditions, about where God is to be found. One sapient person points up above, indicating that God is transcendent, another points to the nearest person passing by, meaning that God is in the person we meet along our way, while yet another takes the child’s hand and points it back at its own heart, indicating that God is inside us. The fable is often weighted to give precedence to the God within.
It is not difficult to see that the doctrine of the Trinity encompasses each of those dimensions of the divine. God the Creator is transcendent, while the Second Person, at least according to the Gospels, we meet in the other person. In such an understanding this other person can be, and often is, either male or female. That is how I understand Matthew 25: 35-40. The historical incarnation of God was a concrete person at a definite time in a real culture – wrapped in swaddling clothes at birth and not in pampers: the God in the Other that we meet is just as concrete, definite, and real, but can be anyone and is not limited by gender. The Third Person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, resides within us. This understanding of God within us goes back at least to Augustine (unfortunately, I’m relying on Charles Taylor here and not on my personal reading of the Church Father). Here is where the relational nature of the Trinity is crucial. For instance, in that fable that stresses the importance of the God within there is the potential for radical individualism and even solipsism (the navel-gazing of my g-g-generation!). But the Holy Spirit, as much as we need the “comforter” for ourselves, eventually points us back toward the Other.
The simple theology of a peasant: “There is a God and you will be judged.” All the rest is church politics. It had about as much to do with religion as modern literary theory in American universities has to do with literature.
Avoiding some of the provocations in comments previously, I’ll just offer a hearty “Amen” to Prof. Mead’s note about the need to understand something about religion, whatever your own faith stance, to comprehend material like most primary sources for American social, political, and economic history in the past 300 years. For instance, the Arminian/Calvinist division runs through almost every village and city history, their institutions, and various loyalties. A good example is Peter Cartwright, who ran against — and beat — Abraham Lincoln for elective office, and he a Wesleyan Arminian of the most fervent sort.
It would be like trying to understand most of 1787 to 1861 primary sources while not having any idea what “slavery” or “abolitionism” actually meant, and there being a general academic aversion to not only talking about those categories, but even using those words.
I am also enjoying this meander very much and will continue following your Yule blog with great interest.
When I compared theology to “literary theory” I should have written “post-modern academic literary theory.” I was likening church politics to academic politics.
Thank you again for your post, Professor.
As I said in a comment to an earlier post in this series, the Bible does not implicitly state the doctrine of the Trinity. Rather, it is an attempt to reconcile a number of passages in the New Testament which assign divinity and Godhood to both Jesus and to the Holy Spirit (the divinity of God the Father having already been established in the Old Testament).
I recognize the difficulty in applying logic to this doctrine, and that a strict rationalist will quickly be confounded by it. The question is, does that make it invalid?
If I, as a rationalist, reject the Trinity (or, for that matter, the divinity of Christ) because it confounds me on a rational level, then I have made the decision that a God who doesn’t make himself sufficiently clear to me isn’t worthy of my worship. In other words, God must jump through my hoops before I will accept him as God.
I think that’s where most people stumble in their search for belief; it’s not that God fails to meet the standard of objective logic, it’s that he fails to meet MY standard of subjective need.
The first hurdle of belief is to allow God to be God – which means that he is not only not human, he exists on a level of reality that our finite minds and experience simply cannot grasp. God can only reveal himself to us through means available in the reality that defines us.
Could God have revealed himself is such a way that it would have made perfect logical sense, even to the most strictly rational mind? Perhaps, but I don’t think that was God’s primary concern. I suspect that giving priority to concerns of logic and rationity would have compromised the integrity of the message he wanted to convey, which is that God is love.
Jesus prayed, “I thank you, Father, for keeping these things from the learned and the wise, and for revealing them to the innocent and the simple.” Intelligence and the capacity for rational and logical thought is a gift, but we must be careful not to make it the instrument of our own destruction.
P.S. – If one really needs a logical path to God, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity is a good place to start.