A 71 year-old reader writes about the Trinity
A reader writes:
I just read the post from the young Irish man who said how you have stretched his imagination. I want to give a hearty “second” to that and share something how, beginning with “A New Kind of Christianity” you have stretched my imagination and helped me get out of my “Spiritual Rut”.
I am 71 years old and grew up Roman Catholic. Having just celebrated Trinity Sunday, my mind went back to the days when I was an altar boy (yes, I had to learn the prayers in Latin). There was a little pamphlet in the magazine rack in back of the church titled “Between Heaven and Earth”. On the front was an illustration. Hovering in the clouds were God the Father (stereotypical – old, long white beard), Jesus on his right side (instantly recognizable because it looked just like the statue of the Sacred Heart), and hovering between them and the dome of St. Peters Basilica was the dove of the Holy Spirit.
For many years, my idea of “Trinity” was that it was something existing “out there” and totally academic thought up by theologians long ago and far away.
Upon reflection, I am coming to the realization that our belief in a triune God is a lot more than an intellectual construct, and a lot closer to my everyday life.
I have started grappling with the notion that God is indeed three – God totally transcendent, totally “other”, totally unknowable; God incarnate, fully revealed in Jesus to be sure, but also incarnate in all of Creation (including you and me); and God relational between transcendence and incarnational – the Holy Spirit. I can’t understand it, I just “know” it. It works for me. I am not sure if I’m onto something or if I’m in a blind alley constructed of my own ignorance, but I did want to share the insight with someone I trust and respect.
Thanks so much for your encouraging words. I remember as I was writing my new book, We Make the Road by Walking, that I wondered how and where I would address the Trinity. The book is an overview of the Bible, and since the word "trinity" never occurs in the Bible, I could have passed the subject by. But the book is also a "catechesis" for Christian faith, and Trinity is deeply important to Christian history and faith. True, the doctrine has been abused in many ways - not the least of which was to animate hostility to Jews and Muslims who do not believe in the Trinity. And as your pamphlet illustrated, it is often explained or depicted in ways that create more misunderstanding and confusion than awe and worship.
But like you, I believe there is a deep truth and beauty in the healing teaching of the Trinity. I tried to capture some facets of that truth and beauty in Chapter 45, Spirit of Unity and Diversity, in the new book. Here's a quote from the chapter:
This all sounds highly speculative but it was a sincere attempt to put into words the radical way they were rethinking and freshly experiencing God in the aftermath of their experience of Jesus. By God's parental love, through Christ's beautiful life, death, and resurrection, and through the Holy Spirit, they felt that they had been caught up into this divine communion themselves. God could never again be for them a distant, isolated One to whom they were "the other." Now they knew God as a dynamic and hospitable one-another in whom they lived, moved, and had their being. The Trinity described how they experienced God "from the inside."
… This healing teaching began unleashing a revolution that is still unfolding today in at least five distinct but related ways.
Those five transformations make up the heart of the chapter. Again, thanks for writing.