Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Prayer and a Triune God

Lately I've been listening to C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity on tape as part of my nightly devotions. I was listening to a chapter that addresses the aspect of the Trinity just a few days ago. So Glenn's previous blog inspired me to discuss one of Lewis' passages about the triune nature of God.

This passage, from the chapter "The Three-Personal God" illustrates how the seemingly simple act of kneeling down to pray is a way of having fellowship with a triune Lord. First, Lewis discusses how the human mind cannot really imagine that one being can also be three beings. But He continues by revealing how this struggle to logically conceive of God as three persons does not prevent us from having a relationship with Him:

You may ask, 'if we cannot imagine a three-personal Being, what is the good of talking about Him?' Well, there isn't any good talking about Him. The thing that matters is being actually drawn into that three-personal life, and that may begin any time - to-night, if you like.

What I mean is this. An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God - that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on - the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the higher kinds of life - what I called Zoe or spiritual life: he is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself.

I don't share these words because I completely understand them or because I think Lewis has somehow cracked the mystery of the Trinity. I very much agree with Glenn's statement that pondering the triune nature of God is a challenging task. Even Lewis, with his steel-trap-like mind and his eloquence of expression cannot fully understand matters of faith. In fact, one of the reasons that I enjoy him so much is that he openly admits to his own limitations. He uses his gifts to try and make sense of and explain the Christian faith. He invites his reader to wrestle with ideas right along with him. By doing so, he allows aspects of Christianity to be thought about in a clear, and even new, way. That's what happened to me; thinking about the act of prayer clarified my understanding of interacting with the Trinity.

So even if this passage from Mere Christianity doesn't instantly make the Trinity make sense in my mind, it sparks more thoughts, questions and ideas. It is a tangible demonstration of how faith and acts must connect. And I think that's exactly what effective theological writing should do---it shouldn't just let you lap up someone else's ideas and truths, but it should stimulate you into personal contemplation and reflection. At the very least, this passage serves as a reminder that, even if we feel like we feel like aspects of Christianity are inexplicable or inexpressible, they are always livable. What overwhelms and frustrates our minds is part of the grace and salvation that is at work in our souls. (If you are interested in more of Lewis' thoughts on the Trinity, click here).

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