Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Reflections on the Trinity

We theologians may rightfully be chastised from time to time for trying too hard on occasion to understand and explain things are a rather unexplainable and inexpressible. This is not to say that the attempt is wrong. It is often well-intentioned. Knowing God is the highest pursuit and this pursuit involves the entire person, including the mind. It does, however, require humility and an inner sense of “nervousness” (for lack of a better word) when considering matters such as the nature of the Trinity.

Personally, I fell like I am standing on top of a narrow stone wall every time I ponder the nature of the Trinity. Too much one way or the other and you end up in heresy. As soon as I think of one aspect of God’s triune nature, my mind and heart caution me that I am wandering on sacred ground. I am compelled to add caveats to my considerations. For every explanation, there is a disclaimer. For every “Yes”, there is a “No.” Is it any wonder that Eastern Orthodox Christians have tended to describe God more by what He is not than by what He is?

But rather than minimizing or even criticizing such theological pursuit, it seems to me that this must be part of what it means to be created in the image of the triune God. We were created to know Him, to fellowship with Him, to reflect His image. In knowing Him, we discover things about ourselves, especially how we ought to be. This is especially true in our interactions with our fellow human beings; equal bearers of the Divine Image. As we see the relationship between the members of the Trinity, we recognize that force is no attribute of God’s. And so we cannot rightfully force others to submit to our religious convictions. We can persuade, discuss, even debate, but we cannot compel and still reflect God’s Image to our fellow man.

In the same way, it is wrong for others to try to compel us to remain silent, to privatize our faith. Faith in the context of the triune God is intrinsically communal. For others (either as an individual or as an institution) to seek to restrict the free practice of such faith is a violation of our very humanity. It is intrinsic to who we are; image bearers of a self-revelatory triune God who desires to be known.

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