A MINISTER’S MUSINGS……………………ON THE TRINITY
Today is Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost, and a day in the church calendar cycle that celebrates the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. In classical Christian theology, the Trinity is always named as Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Spirit), but in recent decades, other terms have been used; for example, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. I wonder if we will ever get to the place where we use the word “Mother” to describe God when we use the Trinity?
The Trinitarian formula, as it is called, is a created construct of the early Christian church. The early church fathers, at their various church councils, developed the construct to embrace the three ways that people experienced God; as a loving Creator, as a son who walked on the earth and transformed people and as the Spirit of the living God that resides within all people.
Of course, our Muslim friends are confounded by the Trinity because it seems to them that Christians actually worship three Gods, while a devout Muslim is committed to worshiping only one God: Allah.
In practical terms, how is the Trinity applied in our modern Christian context? Well, for one thing, a denomination cannot be considered a Christian church if it does not acknowledge and embrace the Trinity as the formulation used to describe God. That is one of the reasons why the Universalist Church is not considered Christian.
Then there is the matter of baptism. When you have observed a baptism at Central, the Trinitarian formula is always used, otherwise the baptism is not considered authentic. And some of our ecumenical Christian partners insist that the ancient words of Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the only ones to be used as the water is being sprinkled.
Gets rather encrusted with tradition, doesn’t it? As in any of these ecclesiastical matters of the church, the United Church is fairly low on the totem in terms of doctrinal entanglements. One of the reasons for this is that we readily acknowledge that the full comprehension of God is beyond our human capacity. We can never quite “get” all of God. God is just too big. So, in our feeble attempt to comprehend the vastness of God, we develop formulas that bring order to God.
Truth be known, there are not enough words in our language or formulas we develop that can fully and truly embrace the measure of God. And I am more than happy with that!