Friday, June 20, 2014
Last week was Trinity Sunday on our liturgical calendar. Today, we pretty much take the concept of God in Three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—as a given. It is something most Christians agree on. There was a time, however, when this was not the case. In the first few hundred years after Jesus lived, a number of competing concepts of God emerged and there were disputes—and sometimes bitter conflict—over which concept was orthodox—or “correct”. In the end, the concept of Trinity came to be widely accepted.
For the most part we no longer debate Trinity today. However, we certainly continue to have intense disputes over what the orthodox position on other issues should be—e.g., homosexuality. Sadly, clashes over concepts of God still lead to bitter and divisive conflicts in our churches. When facing such disputes, we should always remember that, when it comes to finite creatures describing an infinite Creator, concepts carry us only so far.
While we can and should have a firm sense of who we are and what we stand for, we must always maintain an openness to others whose concept of God may differ from our own.
At the end of the day concepts must always leave room for wonder; certainty about God must always yield to mystery in God’s presence. We must never be so arrogant as to think we’ve got God “figured out”. Like a Child on Christmas morning, we must always come eager to receive new gifts and new wisdom from God.
Gregory of Nyssa was a fourth century theologian who is credited with helping to develop the doctrine of Trinity that we now accept as given. He spoke some wise words that I think we would do well to remember today as we try to faithfully wrestle with our position on today’s divisive doctrinal issues:
Concepts create idols, only wonder understands anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees.