De Trinitate

Scott Collins-Jones, “You are in more dire need of a blog than any white man in history.” (Movie quote, anyone?)

Since Scott, a funny, smart, opinionated guy who needs a blog doesn’t have one yet, he emailed me to ask how I can not think that someone who doesn’t believe in the Trinity is not unorthodox. Well, not coincidentally, Doug and I spent a long time talking about this the other night, sitting in his van in my driveway after catching the late showing of What the #$*! Do We Know!?. In fact, this is one of the things that Duffy Robbins and I talked about recently since Doug has made some public comments on this issue.

Now, listen, I disagree with Doug on some significant theological points — we’ve recently had heated conversations on the Trinity and baptism, among other things. But if you listen carefully to him, as I encouraged Duffy to do, Doug uses phrases like “The 3rd century Nicene understanding of the Trinity was once sufficient, but it isn’t any longer.” That is, he feels that many people use the “We’ve got to get back to a Trinitarian theology” line to once again hide behind a God who is quite — if not completely — removed from creation.

This is interesting for me because it’s almost exactly the charge leveled against Schleiermacher and Barth by Moltmann. Moltmann, however, felt that each of these two (and their many acolytes) had subjugated the Trinity and promoted a radical monotheism which leads to monarchialism which leads to Hitler (yes, Moltmann tends to overplay his hand a bit). Moltmann’s counter is to recover the Eastern Orthodox social/perichoretic conception of the Trinity. This is a way, he says, to think of a God who is intimately involved with the continuing creation of the world.

Anyway, my point in all this is that the doctrine of the Trinity is still on the table. Some people, it seems to me, would like for us to no longer debate certain “sacred” doctrines — the Trinity, the nature of Christ, the nature of scripture, the nature of marriage etc. And these persons tend to get very jumpy when emergent-types discuss these sacrae doctrinae, especially in books and at conferences that are being taped. “This is dangerous,” they say.

I say it’s dangerous to stop talking about these things, and it leads to a hegemony among those who already control the seminaries, colleges, magazines, radio stations, conferences, publishing houses, and magazines. We will continue to debate such things.

And furthermore, didn’t some famous theologian once say, “None of us is truly orthodox”? Who was that, anyway?

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  • Anonymous

    Hi Tony. I saw your previous post on this. Whilst I think much of theology is not about orthodoxy, the trinity is an issue to far for me and many in the church.I like the catholic theological framework (Tom Oden does a great outline of this), at three levels:1. dogma – non negotiable2. doctrine – important and open to debate/inerpretation3. Beliefs (funny latin phrase I forget) – things that don’t matter very much.Now I’m not sure Catholic theologians use this a generously, but as an outline, I think it is helpful. Within thise schema, the Trinity is Dogma not doctrine.Tom also goes on to outline how during major cultural changes there are some key theological responses:1. Folk – people decide, what do I/we think…2. Lay – church leaders3. Pastoral – Church pastors do some re-thinking4. Professional – seminary profs etc5. Academic – university theologians not connected to churchHe suggest that the academic and the folk are the main developers. The academic first then the folk.As much as I like Doug and count him a friend, some of his ideas on the trinity are for me ‘folk’ theology, and non-orthodox in the broadest sense.Doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s christian, but I would see him as non-orthodox.I read a lot of Barth for my masters research and his doctrine of creation is so thoroughly trinitarian that it enabled Colin Gunton at Kings to develop his ideas, and produce ‘The Promise of Trinitarian Theology’. So I see a different Barth from the one you mention below.I’ll debate the trinity, christology etc, but I won’t see the trinity as unbelievable and a matter of orthodox faith :-)Thanks Tony, great blog and post.

  • Anonymous

    ..and re-reading your post, I think our theology has been so thoroughly non-trintarian, that we do need to revisit the trinity. What you say Doug says here more sublty nuanced than I have heard. What he has said to me he doesn’t believe in the trinity :-)

  • Anonymous

    The following was written in response to a post by RDavis at concerning the relationship of word vs deed in evangelism but uncovered for me the irrecontovertible relationship of Trinity in of all places the beginning!I have tried to relevate some passages for this post.thankyou for your space–I come here to try to be more enlightened, I don’t contribute nearly as much as I KJV Genesis 1:1-3 1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.So God, then Heaven and Earth, in the beginningYet shapelessness, emptiness, confusion, seething, and violence under God’s brooding bellowing breathful Spirit (direction)Followed by The Word’s instant lightand good reflectionSeparation(Security,enlightenment/unenlightenment)the mystery that is God? Involved yet Holy, Thus God–Preconception, Intention, Machination[(Divinity, Intensity, Personality),(Holiness, Spiritualness, Individualness),(Being, Meaning, Providing),(God, Spirit, Word)]–then suddenly Ideal and Materiale Under Spirit induced care and conditioningthere was Wanton disregard/total devotion, frustrationBut God gave Guidance, Encouragement, Warmth–FaithfulnessandRecognition, All knowing GodReward,/Encouragement Ever Present SpiritProtection All Powerful Victory over death ‘As an aside to the point here is that design and plan and construction are miraculously close together in origin and before time.’So to usward it becomes a fog(ging) of perception and thus difficult to discern, the Trinity, that is. ‘What is not evident is the differentiation between word and deed. The better question, then, is one of faith, something only God discerns with certainty, and not a question so much of whether you do as you say or say as you do, thus as long as both are fairly congruent, then word and deed are to be accepted at face value as proffered by the speaker and doer of those particular words and deeds.’For what better evidence of Spirit(God usward, faith us Godward) do we have than accomplishment of attitude depicted in word and deed?’When they(word and deed, actions) are fidelic with scripture and timely to circumstance they indicate, for practical purposes, a receipt of Grace(reunity with God). Word and deeds then are both actions, which, when applied separately from each other are often disregarded as especially hypocritical, and even when unified are hapless unless divinely appointed(Spirit led).’Somewhat seemingly convoluted and circuitous, I know, but somewhere in there is the touchstone of your post. Trinity is hard to deny as a precept.(dogma)What meany orthodoxy? Thanks again

  • Friar Tuck

    I agree with both Tony and the posts.My view on the Trinity is thus. It is a METAPHOR for God. If Barth is too be believed, and on this point he is, that God is wholly other than us all language for God is at best a limited metaphor. All metaphorical language for God is important, but not exhaustive. The metaphorical language tied to the Trinity can at times be overstated, and thus misused (For instance I have heard some people say men are more like God than women because God is FATHER and SON.). I think this is the point that Doug needles us toward at certain points–to remember that all language for God is metaphorical and limited, including the Trinity. As a sidenote, this limitation of language to communicate something perfectly is at the core of “postmodern” philosophy (see Derrida). So we should not be surprised that an emergent pastoral theologian like Doug struggles with language for God.However, I disagree on this point. Although the Trinity is a metaphor for God, it is the DOMINANT METAPHOR for God in the New Testament (although never explicitly stated as Trinity). It is also the dominant metaphor for God in the current and historical community of the Christian faith. It tells us a lot about who God is, without exhausing our understanding of who God is. Thus, as I read him so far, Doug goes too far.

  • mark

    tony..i think one of the most important points here is that the Trinity is still on the table. That is, there is no theology or point of view that is complete, finished, finalized. We must (and we are called) to continue to rethink and debate everything. Nothing is taken for granted…One of the greatest gifts of Emergent..Mark

  • Doug Pagitt

    Wow, I love nothing more than a good conversation about what Doug thinks. First, Doug thinks that people should not post under anonymous personas.Also, Doug does not not believe in the Trinity.I have tried to be clear so many times on this; the Trinity is not something to be believed in, it is an explanation of how God interrelates. The language of “not believing in something” is far too limited. It is fair to suggest that the third century version of how God relates is not the most accurate in light of what we currently know, and not be forced into saying that one does not believe in it.I simply suggest that the issues that were in place that caused the concept of the Trinity to be formed are no longer an issue. I am not suggesting a lesser understanding of God, or God not dwelling in Christ Jesus. I am suggesting that we not debate the Trinity – that concept did it’s job, rather we need to have Christian understanding of God that fits our day as well as the Trinity fit the third century.I am not saying it is wrong, but it is not complete. No view is complete. That is why all belief is progressive.Also, Doug thinks that there ought be no Dogma. There should be nothing that is not on the table of reconsideration. We will not be able to reconsider everything at the same time, or even think that all things need to be reconsidered, but nothing is exempt from reconsideration.

  • cj

    Tony,Thanks for a thoughtful post, and for encouraging my sorry self to get into the digital communication revolution. I’m working on it, ever so slowly.You kind of imply that my asking why you won’t call Doug “unorthodox” is the same thing as regarding him or even the discussion he prompts as “dangerous”. This simply is not the case.It seems to me that Christian doctrine has at least two functions. One a referential function. That is we think that when we say “Jesus is Lord”, we’re not just playing a language game, but that somehow in an analogical way, this refers to a true state of affairs about the identity of the Risen One from Nazareth. (I say “analogical” here to avoid, one hand, a conservative approach to theological language which would treat the relationship between our God-talk and its referent, God, as univocal. On the other hand, I want to avoid a kind of theological “anti-realism” which would make the relationship between theological language and the God to whom it bears witness utterly “equivocal”. I am here borrowing from a typology which George Hunsinger developed in an essay entitled “Beyond Literalism and Expressivism”.)Doctrines also have a regulative use. They serve a grammatical function, telling us how to “speak” the “Christian language”, and what the norms for discourse are in our community. This is part of what the Yale School theologian George Lindbeck was getting at in his book, The Nature of Doctrine. Now it seems to me that if we made a statement like “God delights in evil”, the catholic Christian community would say “wait a minute, that’s not how Christians talk.” (Part of the reason for this reaction would also be that we think that language doesn’t realistically bear witness to the God revealed in Jesus Christ.) Now a statement like God wills evil would be a trickier one, because here the grammar is more complicated. What do we mean by “will”? It might be a permissible and thus usable statement if we parsed it out more. But in the instance of the one asserting that God delights in evil, this person is clearly using language in a way that equates to grammatical nonsense from the perspective of the Christian community. They must not mean the same thing by “God” if they can put it with “delights in evil”. If they are a Christian, they are “unorthodox”. Doctrines serve a regulative function. They tell us how and when we are using the grammar correctly.Now to deny the truth behind the Doctrine of the Trinity, that God is one and is Father, Son and Spirit, and that all three are fully God, is to be unorthodox. It is to use the terms “God”, “Father”, “Son” and “Spirit” in ways that don’t make sense grammatically to the church catholic. This doesn’t mean the person’s case can’t be entertained. It simply means the burden of proof is on the “unorthodox” one who wants to radically reorder the grammar. If this wasn’t the case, persons who said “God delights in evil” would have to be taken as seriously in discussion as those who say that “God delights in the truth”. This just isn’t the case. So all I am saying is that in denying the truth behind the doctrine of the Trinity, one has left the ordinary way of using Christian grammar. Could Doug be correct? Certainly. But he doesn’t, in my book, get orthodox status simply because he asserts his opinion. He must prove that his grammatical innovation makes more sense, does more justice to the God revealed in and as Jesus Christ. If we didn’t hold that the burden of proof was on Doug, then we couldn’t have any sense of history or tradition, because the moment someone uttered any matter of grammatical nonsense, theologically speaking, it would get a hearing as a normative alternative, deserving as much consideration as those constructions which have stood the test of time and cross cultural utilization and transaltion. Regarding Moltmann’s lumping of Barth together with Schleiermacher, that’s just absurd. And as to his assertion that Eastern social trinitarianism leads to socialist forms of democracy, while the Western trinitarianism leads to authoritarian regimes, give me a break. Look at Eastern Europe, which grew up under the sort of Trinitarianism Moltmann lifts up. Not exactly a hotbed for the development of democracy. What about Czarist Russia? Social Trinitarianism did it alot of good, eh?SCJ

  • Anonymous

    Holy Crap!? Doug Pagitt doesn’t believe in the Trinity? I am getting very scared in all this. I may now attend FutureGen instead of Emergent this year.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Tony, Jason here.Dogma is not doctrinal opinion, not the pronouncement of any given teacher, but doctrinal statute (decretum). The dogmas of a church are those doctrines which it declares to be the most essential contents of Christianity.So when I hear doug saying there should be no dogma, I get a little oncomfortable. For me there is Dogma, that Jesus is the basis for christianity, has to be a dogmatic statement, etc.Without Dogma we have no faith at all, except whatever we chose to believe.I understand the limit of metaphors, they are just that our best attempts (and sometimes worst) to explain the inexplainable.I’m all for debating theology about everything, but I can’t let go of the trinity, however much it is a metpahoric explanation.Are there really no dogma for you doug, was Jesus God, was he human, any christlogical beliefs you hold about Jesus that say he was not just an ordinary bloke that are vital for being a christian? You can’t have any beleif without dogmatics, even if you believe there should be no dogma, which is a dogmatic statement itself.Jason ClarkLondon, England

  • Jimmy

    There is some truth in most of what people are saying here. Yes, all of our stories need continual reinterpreting in every generation, including the trinity. Saying that the trinity needs to be reconsidered is neither new nor very interesting. So it seems to me the real interesting thing here is that when DP says something like this, people freak out, as if what he is saying is new. The benefit then is that people start thinking more seriously about the Trinity.However, I do not think it is helpful for Doug to challenge the 3rd century version of the trinity without giving his own understanding of it. Like I said, challenging an old version of something doesn’t take a lot. Giving content to new understandings might be more useful. In that, I find Moltmann’s understanding the most useful language for our day. Contrary to SCJ, Moltmann did not merely warm over or redress Eastern understandings of the Trinity for the last 2 centuries and call it his own. To reference eastern europe and Russian history as data that refutes Moltmann is simplistic rhetoric and fails to convince.Let’s get past what Doug thinks because in the end it doesn’t matter for the church unless he offers a version that simply ignores the “grammatical function” of the doctrine to begin with and throws out the baby with the bathwater. Would those with the most compelling versions from our time please step forward? I offer Moltmann’s version as the most compelling starting point, and frankly, if you haven’t read Trinity and the Kingdom 3 times, please don’t presume to understand his position (even if you have read it). jim barnhill

  • EL MOL

    jim”Let’s get past what Doug thinks . . . ” – agreed”I do not think it is helpful for Doug to challenge the 3rd century version of the trinity without giving his own understanding of it . . . ” – partial agreeone of my long term frustrations with the “emergent group” has been the ease at which some seem tear at or deconstruct a historical Christian position and its equal inability to offer the an equally compelling or tangible vision for the “new” . . . however, I disagree in this sense though . . . I found doug’s post helpful. maybe I read less than most of you braniacs, and maybe this is not new, but . . . .”the Trinity is not something to be believed in, it is an explanation of how God interrelates . . . “I found that to be quite compelling and at least a partial glimpse of some visionary new way to relate to an old docterine/dogma/whatever we decide it is/wasviva la paz

  • Rick

    Tony,I think the doctrine of the Trinity was left on the table even after the 2nd Council in 381. If you are emperor you just want folks to quit bithching and move on. As you know, it may have given us a more Trinitarian “creed”, but it did not settle the “doctrine”. I am not so certain that there was ever a “dominant” understanding of the trinity in the Third Century. Yes, it is on the table and always has been. I thought Basil, Nyssa, and friend were good ole “Orthodox” boys. Personally, I have no problem with God as “trinity.” I CAN see why folks struggle though.I find it funny who gets to label oneself orthodox and the other a heretic. The one doing the writing is usually “orthodox”, the one on fire is the heretic. :)Nice post.RickNice post.

  • cj

    In response to Jimmy, I will admit, I’ve only read _The Trinity and the Kingdom Twice_. But as one astute reviewer of the text said, you learn as much by what one criticizes as by what one doesn’t. He never criticizes Eastern formulations of the doctrine, while he lambasts Western understandings. I was not implying that he simply took over the Eastern understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. He obviously does not because I know of no Patristic or Modern figure that comes as close to Tritheism as Moltmann. What he does with the Eastern perspective is an innovation, for sure, but not an improvement.I have trouble taking seriously anyone that can call Barth’s view “a late triumph for the Sabellianism that the early Church condemned.” This is just silly.But what I find more problematic is Moltmann’s insistence in playing God’s oneness and threeness off of one another in such a way that Trinitarianism and monotheism are incompatible. Ought not a careful treatment of Trinitarian doctrine give equal ultimacy to God’s oneness and threeness. If one does this, I don’t know that starting points matter as much as Moltmann thinks. Moltmann’s insistence that hypostasis must mean a fully individuated subject seems to make him tri-theistic. Moltmann seeks to replace one substance with three persons or one subject with three modes of being with three persons and one process. Yet Moltmann retains singular subject language, like when he speaks of the Triune God communicating himself in the Incarnation of the Son. But is it proper to speak of a perichoretic process as having this sort of singular subjectivity?SCJ

  • Mitch

    Of Theoblogy in the last 3 months, this post is the most relevant for me.I was talking to a friend today about how we hold different world views, models of understanding about how reality is. In this also falls our understanding of what something means when said.There’s: what is said, what you think you said, what I think you said, what you mean, what I think you mean, what is true, what you think is true, what I think is true, what I think that you think is true, what I think you understand, what you think I understand, and what I think that you think that I think… I think. HA!The story of my life: I don’t understand you, could you say that again in different words? This is why I cringe whenever I hear someone say that the bible is God’s Word. Fair enough, but I can’t accept my understanding of your understanding of it. Once I would have said “No it’s not, the bible is Matthew’s, [pick a writer]‘s, understanding of God’s Word”. Today though I might be more generous and allow you “God’s Word” if you mean that God turns all things to His purpose, including [pick a writer]‘s words. The problem with that is that you are currently reading God’s Word. Now that I’ve opened that can of worms, I would like to demonstate how I close a different can. For the record from Entry: 1or·tho·dox Pronunciation: ‘or-th&-”däksFunction: adjectiveEtymology: Middle English orthodoxe, from Middle French or Late Latin; Middle French orthodoxe, from Late Latin orthodoxus, from Late Greek orthodoxos, from Greek orth- + doxa opinion — more at DOXOLOGY1 a : conforming to established doctrine especially in religion b : CONVENTIONAL2 capitalized : of, relating to, or constituting any of various conservative religious or political groups: as a : EASTERN ORTHODOX b : of or relating to Orthodox Judaism- or·tho·dox·ly adverb Technically everyone is unorthodox to someone else, somewhere, at sometime. We suck at knowing the truth. I prefer to forget the label and acknowledge that the relationship is what is most important. We are blessed through our relationships. (I could have used that understanding 20 years ago.)

  • Doug Pagitt

    From Jimmy – Let’s get past what Doug thinks because in the end it doesn’t matter for the church unless he offers a version that simply ignores the “grammatical function” of the doctrine to begin with and throws out the baby with the bathwater.But, you see, I have drain in my bathtub and do not throw out the bathwater at all, I let it go slowly down the drain. so I never worry about the baby going down the drain. So, I think the baby is safe.No one throws the baby out with the bathwater. The baby is always safe, so don’t worry about that.Now, Jimmy go see if you can help your wife while she finishes making a book out of that yack I sent her :)

  • Rick

    New here and posted earlier. I find most of this conversation fun. 1. Actually, I think much of our understanding of God is “folk” theology. That isn’t a bad thing. It is only when we attempt to be literal that it becomes a problem. We are all attempting to find expression to our undestanding of God. Same shit has been going on for several thousand years. Welcome to the mystery, ain’t it fun? 2. Someone said: “i think one of the most important points here is that the Trinity is still on the table. That is, there is no theology or point of view that is complete, finished, finalized. We must (and we are called) to continue to rethink and debate everything. Nothing is taken for granted… One of the greatest gifts of Emergent..”I think this is a good point. Personally, I would not attribue anything to emergent. In some ways emergent reminds me of the kid who just got his yellow belt in karate. He knows how to stand and he knows one kick. He knows enough to get his ass kicked if he gets in a real fight. I think much of the “emergent conversation” is about yellow belt level in terms of it embracing mid-20th century mainline theology. I speak mainly for myself. I do think it is wonderful though to discuss, seek, and debate. Thanks for a wonderful topic. It gives me much to think about.Blessings,Rick

  • Anonymous

    Doug, I think the metaphor doesn’t include the baby slipping into the small opening known as the drain. So the rate of drainage seems less important, I think, than a radical tossing of the screaming baby out the bathroom window along with your dirty bath. . . . However, if you take a shower in the kind of shower stall I have, you’ll have no trouble with this. And, “it doesn’t matter what DP thinks” is partially a medicine tablet to reduce the swelling of your head when 18 comments are made on or about something you’ve said. Folks, help the man out here for God’s sake, all three of them!

  • Jimmy

    Doug, I think the metaphor doesn’t include the baby slipping into the small opening known as the drain. So the rate of drainage seems less important, I think, than a radical tossing of the screaming baby out the bathroom window along with your dirty bath. . . . However, if you take a shower in the kind of shower stall I have, you’ll have no trouble with this. And, “it doesn’t matter what DP thinks” is partially a medicine tablet to reduce the swelling of your head when 18 comments are made on or about something you’ve said. Folks, help the man out here for God’s sake, all three of them!

  • Jason_73

    my question would be, that if the trinity is not to be believed in why would we give the bible a gender? as per one of his previous posts….?

  • Len

    So would whatever theology Doug holds to be considered Dougma? ;-)

  • Rick

    (Still new here and joining in on my own free will.)It is not that the Trinity should not be “believed in”. I think the point is that the Trinity is extremely relevant. The problem for 21st century folks is perhaps NOT attempting to interpret the Trinity base on hellenistic ideas for these have and can result in dogma. We don’t toss out the doctrine of the Trinity because of its past Hellenistic understandings, however, we cannot impose a timeless obligation of faith on all believers.Kuhn claims, the unity of the father, son , spirit can be understood as REVELATION event and revelational unity. We must move beyond the pure Christological debate and see Jesus and God with reference to Spirit. It is incomplete without pneumatology. Check the creed itself, it is weak on pneumatology. It is as though they just tacked it on. If Jesus was a revelation of God, how does he become a revelation for us? Spiritually. The spirit is the presence of God and of the exalted Christ for believers. It is not a material or physical revelation for us as it is a spiritual reality.Thanks again for the topic.Rick

  • Anonymous

    This conversation is too much for me. I know that we are should be discussing and thinking about theology, but this is making me want to run into the loving and strong arms of Duffy Robbins and have him cradle me softly and tell me it is going to be OK and Doug isn’t going to get make the Trinity go away.

  • Stephen and Mary Liz

    I have recently been reading Alfred North Whitehead’s The Function of Reason. Process Theology, I believe can add a much needed alternative to the Platonic Alpha perspective of God’s action in relation to God’s Self as well as God and Humanity. Ackhams Razor(I hope this is spelled right) is another path in which to travel when dealing with God. Could Jesus just be the son and God Just be God and let the greeks have the spirit. I dont know just a thought?

  • Zach

    is a confession of faith in the doctrine of the trinity a necessity to following Christ and living a life inspired by his revolutionary call for how we LIVE, not talk about, our lives? thief on the cross: Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom.Jesus: Maybe. Tell me, what are your thoughts on the Trinitarian theology?

  • David M

    Does God NEED to be triune? It is sad, to me, how we have to wrestle with/against theologies vs. initial intent [that's my point-of-view on how the church does/doesn't grow it's orthodoxy -- same basic idea as express by previous posts]. Forgive what is about to become a combination of DP thoughts (or at least my thoughts on his thoughts)…The 3rd century’s Trinity was in response to what was going on in combination with their basic understanding of the universe (duh). But our understanding of the universe is drastically different (2nd duh). If the doctrine of Trinity speaks to relating, and if relating has drastically changed, then the doctrine will not be worthless. Rather, the doctrine will give great insight into what those people were actually saying (intent).We live in a world that has virtual and at-a-distance effects. I still laugh out loud when I remember DP’s statement about the advent of the telephone and its effects on one’s understanding of communication – talking no longer requires proximity.So The Holy Spirit, God’s typical non-”physical” presence on earth, becomes almost unnecessary for we now understand that a god-like God can relate, affect, distort, etc. without having to have a visible, physical manifestation at the point of activity. But that’s NEW to the human experience.My point: the doctrine of the Trinity will now give us understanding into what those people understood about God’s relating to ________ (“Himself” – me – nature – etc.) Isn’t that the point of a metaphor anyway (whether given by man or God)? to understand the intent of the communicator? So God gives us the analogy of something Triune-ish, and we give ourselves a further delineated analogy.If Jesus had come to earth today, if all of God’s revealing in word started this year, I don’t know that God would have used anything trinity-ish . . . which I think is the point of those wishing to crucible the Trinity. In the meantime, I can enjoy the intent of the metaphor – God does relate and I rather like the way it’s done (except when I’m in discipline, then I’d rather be short-sited and materialistic).David in Phoenix

  • Anonymous

    My name is Dino….I don’t have a passowrd or username so I had to post annonymously.Is Paul’s language to live by the Spirit or walk in the spirit or even when he talks about gifts of the spirit…are these to be taken as simply metaphors of speaking about God? If trinitarian language is not a neccessity for following Christ then why does Paul employ such language…even Jesus for that matter when he says I will send you a comforter & counselor…or that the Spirit will lead you into all truth.It seems at least that the Spirit has some kind of practical function for being a disciple of Jesus. If the Spirit is only metaphor for God then how do we incorporate the concept of Spirit in both our individaul and communal praxis?

  • Doug Pagitt

    Hey Dino, it seems to me that the language of the New Testement should serve us just fine.

  • Doug Pagitt

    Jimmy – if the metaphor doesn’t work for the baby, then maybe we ought to quit using the metaphor and scaring people into thinking that somehow we will lose what is precious in trying to get rid of the dirty water.We have ways to get rid of the water and keep the baby, so let’s stop worrying about that.

  • Doug Pagitt

    I am not sure anyone is suggesting the Trinity is wrong – certainly not me. I am suggesting that it is not the end of the conversation and we can have more discussion of the relationship of God with the world than to encouraged to “return to good Trinitarian theology”, or to consider it a dogma.

  • Keith

    “I simply suggest that the issues that were in place that caused the concept of the Trinity to be formed are no longer an issue.” Doug, I think that’s a statement that needs to be defended, or at the very least explained more clearly. What are the issues that you think were in place then that are no longer a factor now? I would argue that the issues that were in place in the third century are quite relevant today. Most trinitarian theology was prompted by heresies–that is, by beliefs that were thought to undermine the salvation offered by Christ (such as the idea that Christ was a created being and not fully God). I think you could find representatives of every single heresy that prompted the formulation of trinitarian doctrine in almost any church you step into today. Those beliefs are alive and well and probably always have been. If it is true that the same issues that were present then are still present now, what has changed so that what was thought to be incredibly dangerous to the Christian faith back then can be considered “no longer an issue” today?

  • Anonymous

    “the Trinity is not something to be believed in, it is an explanation of how God interrelates . . . “The doctrine of the Trinity *has* become a doctrine of God’s interrelatedness, but this is what needs to be deconstructed, not the idea of the Trinity per se–which I’m not suggesting is Doug’s agenda. My favorite book on the Trinity is God for Us by the late Catherine LaCugna. She took the position of the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner that we can’t speak of God’s interrelatedness because we only know of his relationship to us. We’re not “out there” to observe God’s inner life. We have God revealed in the economy of space and time–in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Further, this relatedness of Father and Son and Spirit includes us by virtue of the creative and redemptive activity of the three. Further, this divine interrelatedness is what is our promise (John 17, 2 Pet. 1:4, 1 John 3:1-3). Thus, I think the Trinity is absolutely something to be *believed* in, though I agree that it’s always on the table for dialogue.Zossima,

  • Jack

    The councils of Nicea and Constantinople were in the fourth century.