Why the Trinitarian God Matters in Multi-Faith Discourse

In a recent blog post discussion, I spoke of the need to humanize religion.  On Facebook on 11/20, I wrote: “If we don’t humanize religion, we may very well end up demonizing adherents of other paths. We need to put faces to the various faith traditions.”

My particular emphasis on humanization does not discount orthodox Christian faith with its claim that Christ is fully God as well as fully human. To the contrary, it is because God is personal and has three “faces” as the persons of the Father, Son and Spirit that I can speak of the need to put faces to various faith traditions through engagement of human persons with faces. According to historic Christian faith, humans are created in the image of God who is triune. If the Trinity were only a metaphor or social construct, or if the “faces” as persons were only modes or masks that deity wears at various times, I could not take seriously my own claim that we need to put faces to the various faith traditions.

The people I engage from diverse religious traditions are not metaphors or social constructs or masks that generic humanity wears. Rather, the individuals I engage are indelibly who they are as the persons with names and faces and personalities that make them universally unique. Of course, they and I may at times wear masks to cover what we really think and feel and cloak who we really are. But such masks do not exhaust us, while our personal identities go to the core of what makes us who and what we are as human.

My friends from other religious traditions have their own reasons for why they can affirm the need to put human faces to various faith traditions; what I wrote above is truly and accurately mine. To return to the point at the beginning of this piece, emphasis on humanity does not discount consideration of divinity since Christ is fully God and fully human. Moreover, to commandeer a statement from Karl Barth, God’s deity rightly understood includes his humanity.[1] To put a Barthian face to the discussion, to think apart from Christ is to think “demonically.”

This piece is cross-posted at The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and at The Christian Post.


[1]Karl Barth, “The Humanity of God,” in The Humanity of God (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1960), p. 46.

About Paul Louis Metzger

Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including "Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths" and "Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church." These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.

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  • http://www.enlet1.wordpress.com/ Joe-Silem Enlet

    Paul,
    Yes. I totally agree. This is why I am a Christian. Because the Trinity has space for the particularity of identity (of me). I can truly be a person and yet be able to commune with the person of Christ and with other image bearing persons because of the reality of the Trinity, in whose image we are created. This truth continues to save me daily. I can truly be a Christian and a Micronesian at the same time and know that the Trinity in its cosmic reality also engages and loves me in its particular/personal reality in the person of the incarnate Christ.
    Until we realize our own personhoods and humanity we cannot engage others genuinely as humans. We often engage others as minds and as faceless/nameless entities, not realizing that when we do that we dehumanize not only them but we also dehumanize ourselves. So when I continue to engage other persons and see their beauty as particular persons, from particular cultures, with particular faith traditions, I am free to be a particular person and can celebrate how I am personally engaged by God in Christ. This is indeed redemptive. It saves me. And I thank God for it. Happy Thanksgiving!
    Joe

    • pmetzger

      Exceptionally well put, Joe (Joe-Silem Enlet). Many thanks for your excellent reflection. Happy Thanksgiving!


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