Life, Faith and Urban Farming

The life and happenings of an unconventional pastor and urban farmer living in the city with a family of five.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Talking About the Trinity

Yesterday I attended a gathering with Ian Mobsby, an author and pastor from Great Britain. His church is called Moot if you want to Google it. The discussion yesterday centered around using our understanding of the Trinity as a model for the church and all human relationships. About half way through the discussion someone asked about how we speak of the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer - etc. - and the use or non-use of the male language. Ian practically didn't understand the question. In our country and our Presbytery it's a big deal right now. In England it is not. People use male language, and they use other language for describing the trinity, there's litte debate or problem for them. I do think there's room for debate and discussion, unfortunately around here its devisive and hurtful.

I will continue to use Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the names of God, I think these are more than just metaphores they're names that we are given in scripture. But I'll also allow for other creative metaphores to describe the mystery behind those names, and I'll admit that the Father and Holy Spirit are not necessarily male in gender.

My home church rarely spoke of the trinity. Of course I knew there was God, his Son and some mysterious Holy Spirit, but trinitarian language was rarely used. We never prayed in the name of the "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" - that sounded too Catholic. And yet roomer has it that my home church is leaving the PCUSA because other Presbyterians are using other metaphores for the persons of the Trinity. It's been said by church members that they have to leave the PCUSA because the denomination doesn't believe in the Trinity - I don't think that's true.

I do believe it's ok to use other linguistic metaphores for the trinity. Language can never fully describe such a vast mystery as the persons of the trinity, the attributes of the trinity, or the distinct jobs of the trinity. Though I may not always agree that a certain metaphore is helpful - I will never break unity in the church because of it.

While I beleive linguistic metaphore is helpful in describing the trinity I've been persuaded by Andrew Purves that Father, Son and Holy Spirit describes more than just a linguistic metaphore - I believe this language best describes the relationship between the persons of the Trinity. If we beleive Jesus was and still is fully human fully divine, then we believe he was and is male. That can be hard to swallow for a feminist or someone who has been hurt by men, but I can't see any way around it. According to scripture Jesus related to God in a very personal, familial way - as his Father. Dr. Purves has said that we are draw into Christ by the Holy Spirit, united with Christ and made a part of Christ's relationship with the Father. We invited to participate in the relationship of the Trinity, the relationship of Father and Son. The "son" is who Jesus is and was. We can talk about other metaphores for what he does, but we can't get around his relationship to the Father. I do think there's more creative room for how we talk about the Father and the Holy Spirit. Femine language does not bother me.

I can't help but desire room to continue to imagine this pericoretic dance between the Father Son and Holy Spirit in new and different ways. I want to know and experience the three in one so that it is reflected in my relationship with my wife and daughter, my relationships with my friends and family and my community of faith. The triune relationship is the image that we are created most like. Sometimes it might be more helpful to talk of the Trinity in metaphores because the reality of the Trinity is too great a mystery for you and I to every fully understand and for us to ever perfectly describe in language. I think freedom to experiment is good. I also think Father, Son and Holy Spirit should remain the universal names for the persons of the Trinity. I'm sure you can hear my schizophrenia coming out. Can I say it's "both and." So please, lets not get offended when I use the words Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and please lets not cry heretic when my brother or sister in Christ uses metaphores that help him/her better relate to and experience the realness of this mystery.

I'll state again what I said at the beginning: I will continue to use Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the names of God. But I'll also allow for other creative metaphores to describe the mystery behind those names.

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