I have issue with fellow theologians who embrace the Trinity in a cemented fashion. They embrace the three in one as something too complex to understand. It is true. If you focus too much on the parts of the Trinity the parts fall to pieces and no longer work. The Trinity is held up by tradition. There has been a long standing written battle between theologians of whether/when/if tradition is something we canonize. There came a point where we 'closed' what was going to be added or taken away from the bible. The question is, did we leave room for the story of God to continue or was it really time to close a door to one story to make room for a new one? The Trinity was solidified post canonization of the bible. In fact, the Apostle's Creed, in it's early form, wasn't even trinitarian. The Spirit was included late in it's inception. Yet is seems like the Trinity is an untouchable piece of theology. We can say the word 'tradition' and it builds this 50 ft tall 3 ft thick wall around it. Believing in the Trinity is a question of faith and not believing in it is blasphemy. I propose the Trinity, as we understand it today is forced. If we were to be honest we would see the three in one is really the many in one.
First, our initial problems happen when we try to place secondary names on the Trinity. As my 1st semester Christian Thought professor explained: The Trinity is not three modes of being, like water. The Trinity isn't like one pie but three pieces. It isn't a three leaf clover. Those are ways to help us understand but the mystery makes it more than that. The trinity is one God. All the persons of the Trinity are still one God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God. The Father is God. They are separate in who they are but they are still one. This is not the same as one pie but three pieces because they are also all different. This is not the same as three modes of being like water being vapor, liquid and solid because they are also all the same at the same time.
Many have tried to reword the threeness in order to make it less patriarchal, less human, or more of something else. In every case they have discovered a new view of God which is destroyed within it's threefold frame. Father-Son-Holy Ghost is blind to the feminine way of God. I joked years ago that I was going to rename the Trinity the Parent, Child and Holy Vibe to be gender neutral. Some would see my joke as a possible idea. They would relate the Parent to Father. They would see the Child as Son. The Holy Vibe would be the Spirit. Yet, with an all in one understanding of the Trinity, could one do that? Think about it. Just by changing the names you have labeled the threeness and given order. The Father is a parent. Well, so is the Son because the Son is also God. So is the Spirit because the Spirit is also God.
Another separation of the Trinity is Creator, Christ, and Spirit. A creator is not a Father yet it is put in that role. If we are honest, Creator is really a forth dimension of God. Just as the Word is the fifth dimension of God. The Word became flesh. Jesus became Spirit. Why does the Word become Christ? In that case Jesus would become Spirit and the third part of the Trinity would cease to be three and become two.
There is a purpose to my separating the different ways the trinity has been verbalized. The trinity is God, all three God and all one God. At the same time different parts of the trinity are different and unique. The Trinity is three and at the same time one. The Father is the Son is the Spirit. But the Father is different from the Son who is different from the Spirit. I do not disagree with any of it. Instead, I joyfully agree with that part of it.
If I was speaking these words in conversation instead of writing them I am sure the dialogue partner would counter my argument by saying, "Yes, but every image of God is incomplete." Perhaps they would follow with, "We have to understand the trinity in some way or we cannot talk about it at all" I say, do we? We have biblical pointers to a parent, a child and the spirit. Yes- celebrate for winning that point but where do we get the precept from God that those three should be placed together? Hmm? It's OK, step back and look it up. So after you do your mini-research you might come back with the threeness within the creation narrative. OK, but you have to put aside "Creator," and make a connection between Christ and the Word. Already, distinctions are made and the trinity begins to all apart. Father and Creator, Son and Word must be one to make it work. But, the Word and Spirit are also one. However, they at the same time, can't be in the Genesis example. Creator and Son are one. Within this discussion it begins to look like what I said before more like five in one, (Creator, Word, Christ, Father, and Spirit.)
It is the only way to give the spirit equality in the equation. Yet, by always listing the spirit last in the 'line-up' puts it last in our sense of hierarchy. How often do you pray to the spirit? I know I don't very often.
I purpose a new idea- rather than separating our images into the threeness of God why not accept all images as a partial and (in someway) whole representation of God. Instead of three in one is really Infinity in One. Believing infinitude of God shares the unbelievable complexity of God. It also does something else:
The trinity limits those whose relationship with God does not fit. Infinitude accepts how God could come as a female to one, a male to another, a dog , an ocean, or a bright light to someone else. Even in apparent contradiction of itself, God is found in the trinity- but God is more than threeness.
As an individual, God comes to each of us and our image of God is shaped by our story. That does not mean we create our image of God! Our image is ours because God understands what we can translate. Yes, our translation is sometimes poor or, dare I say, pitiful, but that is one of the pitfalls of freewill. The more we act and know the truth of God the further away we move from "Eden" and the closer we become to something else, "A New Eden." Now our communal image is made clearer through bringing the images together. You might be having issues with this but realize you already do it. Theologies are images of God. My personal image is heightened by Barth, Cone, Augustine, Cobb and countless others. How God came to Augustine is not and cannot be the same way in which God comes to me. To go further, how God comes to Ashton Kutcher (as an off the wall example) is different than both Augustine and myself. My goal, as an interpreter of images, is to try to parse out what is God's image within the interpretations of Augustine, Kutcher and others. This I must also do within the image God gives me because I will always place myself into anything I see. It is impossible not to do so.
Now for all you haters who were screaming at the computer and blacklisting me for ever speaking negatively against the Trinity, there is something about it I believe. I believe the trinity positively embraces the concept of many and one. We are individuals and we are community. We are either one community with many individuals or I am an individual within the multitude of the community. We are made in the image of God. In knowing God we become like God and further away from the Garden and closer to community with our creator. To be clear, we don't become gods, but rather, like God. Attempting to become gods will only lead down the road of false idols and destruction.
Each of us has a piece of the greater image of God. Some of our pieces overlap and, even if every person openly gave their piece, we still would not have a complete picture. However, God completely comes to us. We can individually see God in perfection. Yet, God sees us completely as we interact with creation. Our relationship with God must be both communally and individually. They are both equally important.
Now this is my last statement regarding the Trinity: I could be completely wrong. I am open enough to confess my belief may not be inspired at all. I fear what that would mean if it was true. I believe I was created in God's image. If I don't have room to see anything but Father, Son, and Holy Ghost I don't have room to see anything but males being created in God's image and females being created in a males image. In that case God is no longer my God and I refuse to be servant to the god created for me. I truly believe my God is the God of all creation and I was created in that image. I believe it because of Genesis 1:27. "God created humanity in God's own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them." Somewhere and somehow God is my Mother and my sister, and I was created in Her image.
When President Barack Obama said the sentence, "You didn't build that," on the election trail it polarized the debate. It almost forced people to choose a side. For educated liberals they saw the meaning behind Obama's words. No accomplishment is met by oneself. New theories are built on the backs on previous theories. Businesses grow not just because of hard working owners but the people that owner hires and the additional businesses they purchase supplies and rent from. Educated conservatives saw the problem with Obama's poor wording. There are individuals who sacrifice, work a 60 hour work weeks, begin their organization or business without paying themselves. To say they didn't build their company, restaurant, or organization negates the sacrifice to make their dreams a reality.
I see how both sides are correct. Yet, somehow, four words drew the line in the sand. We were told to make a choice. Either we were for the community or the individual. If we are honest we would realize there was no winning. Once we picked a side the opposite side vilified us. The only thing the "You didn't build that" argument did was expand the chasm that has been growing for years now, separating us as a nation. Therefore, I also see how both sides are wrong.
Let's change the focus. Let's say we are actually all builders. Every day we are building. Perhaps we are building relationships, connections, and innovations. Perhaps we are building walls, ditches, and separators. Either way we are building. We don't have a choice, we have to build. The only choice we have is what we are building. Are we building on good business practices or underhanded deals. Are we building on love or something else. The question then isn't whether or not we are the builders. The real question becomes what are we building.
I write this, in part, for one of Fig Tree's meditations. In bigger part, I write this because I think it does more to create a bridge that might be able to overcome this chasm. I am friends with some pretty strong liberals and some pretty strong conservatives. I am friends with both because I can really see how both sides are correct. It hurts my heart to see the divide as it continues to grow and separate us. Do you want to know what I want to build? I want to be a bridge builder. I pray some day I can say, "I did build that."