Thoughts on the Trinity

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Today is Trinity Sunday.  The doctrine of the Trinity—one God in three persons—defies logic and is evidence to children of the Enlightenment that religion is basically a lot of nonsense, i.e. non-sense.

I guess it depends on what your epistemology is.  That is, how do you know what is true, what reality "really" is, and what is false, what is illusion.  The children of the Enlightenment maintain that illogical beliefs are symptoms of logic that is ill.

So what are we who are orthodox Christians to do with this nonrational doctrine on Trinity Sunday?

Many writers are a lot more insightful than I am, so I'm going to hand this theological ball off to Barbara Brown Taylor.  What follows are simply quotes from her book titled Home By Another Way.

  • [Zen Buddhist koans are] small, impenetrable questions designed to frustrate the logical mind so that deeper understanding may take place.
  • Those on the receiving end say they discover a level of reality that lies far beyond reason.
  • Many of Jesus parables belong in that category, as do saying such as "Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."
  • There are orthodox answers to all these questions, but I have never entirely understood any of them [i.e. doctrines].  I accept them as earnest human efforts to describe something that cannot ever be described, which is the nature of God.
  • Robert Farrar Capon says that when human beings try to describe God we are like a bunch of oysters trying to describe a ballerina.
  • The best any of us has ever been able to do is to describe what the experience of God is like.
  • The problem is that it is rarely the same experience twice in a row.
  • Some days God comes as a judge. . .Some days God comes as a whirlwind. . .as a brooding hen who hides us in the shelter of her wings. . .as a dazzling monarch. . .as a silent servant.
  • God is many, which is at least one of the mysteries behind the doctrine of the Trinity.  That faith statement is a confession that God comes to us in all kinds of ways. . .
  • The other mystery is that God is one.
  • When we experience God in contradictory ways, that is our problem, not God's.
  • All we can do is decide whether or not to open ourselves up to a God whose freedom and imagination boggle our minds.
  • Perhaps the most faithful sermon on the Trinity is one that sniffs around the edges of the mystery, hunting for something closer to an experience than an understanding.  What, for instance, is the sound of three hands clapping?

The problem with Brown's "reasoning" is that it can be used to support a post modern intellectual relativism which claims that there is no such thing as THE TRUTH.  Maybe that's why followers of Jesus are known as Christians instead of Trinitarians.  If God comes in many forms, it does not follow that all forms are God.  Traditionally, Christians have used the particular historical person of Jesus as the litmus test to discern which nonrational statements point to empirically unverifiable realities and which are merely fantasies and illusions. 

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