Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

MadPriest asked a very interesting and tough question on his blog today. He asked, "Must Jesus and the Holy Spirit be an equal part of the godhead with God (the Father)?" My answer was too long for an entry in his blog but I decided to post it on mine...

For starters, it is a question that defies any hope of empiric evidence. Therefore, in an empiric sense there can be no right or wrong answer.

The facts I understand are these:

1. The word "Trinity" is never mentioned in either the Old or New Testaments.
2. There are at least 70 names for God in the Bible in the original languages (Hey, why stop at three?)
3. The "Trinity", as we know it, has been around "officially" since AD 325, when the Council of Nicea established the doctrine of the Trinity as an orthodox tenet of Christianity. In other words, it was established by committee, which in my mind makes it in some ways "a compromise."
4. "Unofficially", the three parts of the Trinity were first mentioned as a single unit when Christ gave The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19.
5. Paul may have been one of the earliest leaders in the early Church to use the three units as one for purposes of preaching and teaching, as in 2nd Corinthians 13:14 ("May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.")

Wow. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation, doesn't it?

So now let's move to a short list of "The concept as I see it"...

1. There was a time when the Son had not yet existed on earth; therefore, there was no need to put the three together until after Jesus' day. If there was no need to put these three entities together prior to that, that implies that they are, in a sense, free-standing entities in their own right.
2. They are all descriptions of separate aspects of God--the big picture God, a man who was connected to God in a way unique to historical precedent, and the small still voice of God, who works from within and behind the scenes.
3. There are aspects of God that are not totally covered by the Trinity, such as shekinah--the presence of God in holy objects or places, that is a word of female gender and of a power that I see personally as equal as any of the other "Names of God."

So...after all that, my answer is, "Equal" is an empiric concept and we are talking about non-empirically understood entities. These things are graded on the "Pass/Fail" system, not the "ABCDF" grading system. Therefore, the "equality" or lack of between the three entities doesn't matter.

This is how I tend to deal with most things spiritual. For instance, I struggled for years (literally) with the entire concept of “The Resurrection” simply because my scientific half of my brain knows “dead” intimately and “resurrected” not at all. For the longest time, I felt that I had to put the Resurrection in some sort of box where I could “explain” it...and really, (and this is something I would not even bring up with 97.5 percent of people, DEFINITELY not to my mom, but MAYBE to her holy roller friend just for shock effect, to see if she'd faint or try to exorcise me or something) deep down inside the scientific part of my brain figures the Resurrection scientifically was one of those weird “not really dead” things. I say that because we would have no trouble saying someone who drowned in a frozen pond and was revived hours later “came back from the dead” and we have all heard of people being taken to the morgue and turning out to be alive, and people sitting up in the casket at their own funeral.

(Ascension is still a bit of a problem in this thought line but I just tend to rely on the power of allegory. )

But what I also know is that SOMETHING happened that caused the people of Jesus’ day to believe he rose from the dead, and really, that’s all that matters. The “hows” are meaningless...because whatever happened caused his disciples to go out and start a whole new religion, with him as the Messiah. That is miracle enough for me, and the details become unimportant. I realize feeling the way I do still allows me to say with perfectly honest conviction the “We believes” in the Nicene Creed. (I will save my "why does there have to be only one Messiah?" thoughts for another thread!)

We are a people steeped in the need for “empiric truth”. People 2000 years ago were not. They saw things differently. Also most of the resurrection/ascension stuff is in John, and it often has “more in the story” than the synoptic Gospels. It was written 80-90 years after Jesus was crucified. Compare that to Mark, the youngest Gospel (about 40 years after the fact) and he ends his book with an empty tomb and everyone being afraid.

It’s a concept that has no empiric answer, and I think about it in sort of the way I think about the Prime Meridian. The Prime Meridian is a PURELY imaginary line, created by people. Yet without the Prime Meridian, we could not travel like we do, and we could not have standardization of time on the earth. So the EFFECT of this imaginary line represents a shitload of reality!

Now, would I be fool enough to say, “I don’t believe in the Prime Meridian?” “I don’t believe in the equator?” Of course not. The outcome and the effect of them is very very real! Well, then, if I can believe that about a purely imaginary line, I certainly can believe that a real fellow named Jesus, chronicled in all sorts of ancient history, was more connected to God than 99.99999% of people, which that in itself qualifies as “divine” in my book, and the effect of this man makes things very very real to me in how I understand God. The details of the last couple chapters of John and whether I believe it all in the most literal of literal senses is meaningless.

But back to the Holy Trinity. Mostly I see the Holy Trinity as an entity designed to understand a vast part of what God is all about. But I also respect the need of some people to make it "real" in a different light than how it is "real" for me. But whether the three parts are "equal" or not do not affect its utility or purpose, nor does this equality or lack of equality affect my belief or my spirituality. There are parts of God addressed by the Holy Trinity, and they are not to be dismissed just because we don't include them in the Holy Trinity, nor are they less holy. Convoluted yes, evasive, no--because I am willing to accept the lack of empiric proof of any of it. After all, if you totally needed an answer embedded in empiric fact, why would you choose to believe in God in the first place?



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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