June 12, 2007
June 14, 2007

June 13, 2007

THIS JUST IN

Billy Graham's wife Ruth is in a coma and close to death, reports say. Anyone who has experienced the death of someone close knows the pain Billy is in now. Keep the family in your thoughts and prayers, please.

* * *

THE DISPUTE OVER RELIGIOUS BOOKS IN PRISON

Books deemed to be radically religious are being removed from the shelves of prisons around the country, it's reported. Although it's true that people in penal institutions don't have the same rights as free people, the courts will have to find some reasonable solution. Prisoners should have access to reading material, but who will decide when certain books cross the line and, in effect, turn prison libraries into schools for terrorism?

* * *

TRINITARIAN DOCTRINE: NOT JUST FOR THEOLOGICAL GEEKS ANYMORE

Conventional Christian wisdom says the doctrine of the Trinity is difficult to explain, unconnected to the daily lives of adherents and mostly an academic exercise.

TrinityWrong, wrong and wrong. (Well, sort of wrong, wrong and wrong.)

And as a Christian who is deeply attached to the idea of the Trinity, I was pleased to find it the topic of a helpful essay in the current issue of Theology Today, a quarterly connected to the Princeton Theological Seminary. Although I can link you to the publication's Web site, you will be able to find there only an abstract of the Trinity piece by Sally A. Brown, assistant professor of preaching and worship at Princeton.

In brief, Brown argues that Trinitarian doctrine can and should have profound consequences for the way congregations form themselves and operate. That's partly because, she says, the Trinity gives us models for the way power within a congregation should be shared.

". . .spiritual life in North America today is marked by individualism and voluntarism," she says. But if we understand what Trinitarian doctrine is trying to teach us about how to relate to one another, she writes, we would know that "being Christian is a communal matter before it is a private one -- an idea foreign to the consciousness of many North Americans."

In most congregations, Brown says, "power and influence are deployed according to patterns that mirror dominant cultural models beyond the church walls." But Trinitarian doctrine, she writes, should lead us to "more diverse models of power sharing."

And, she writes, most congregations in North America do not reflect the wide diversity of the population. Instead, "unity is achieved at th expense of distinction and difference." Trinitarian doctrine should lead us to models of witness and worship that more accurately reflect God's own "unity-across-difference," she says.

The problem, of course, is that historically the Trinity has been explained in many different ways, none of which exhaust its depth and breadth and not many of which emphasize the profound monotheism that lies at the Trinity's foundation.

"Developing the kind of trinitarian imagination in a congregation that can alter long-established patterns in congregational life," Brown writes, "will depend not so much on explaining the Trinity in our sermons as evoking its wonders."

All of this may seem like inside-baseball for Christians, but it also has an important role to play in the ways in which Christians relate to people of other faiths, particularly Muslims and Jews, whose monotheism finds Trinitarian doctrine deeply problematic, to say the least. That is one reason it behooves Christians to have an articulate grasp of Trinitarian doctrine and especially its monotheistic foundation.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

Comments

Dolores Lear

The Monotheistic religion of Jews and Muslims is One God. No Persons. Christians have a Monotheistic religion of One God in Three 'Persons'.
Gods in Three Persons was in many religions before Christianity, only it was composed of Father, Mother and Son.
Since Christianity began, these old Trinity religions were called pagan religions.
Christians made the three 'persons' a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Is the Holy Spirit as taught in Christianity a 'person'?

A new High Tech understanding of the Trinity GOD of the Universes is:
The Father is the Source Of LIFE as we know it, which is made visible and invisible combined with the Son/Atom and the Holy Spirit/Electro-Magnetic Force. None of the elements of this Three in One Trinity are 'persons'.
The Nicene Creed was made to try to explain how the Son and Holy Spirit was part of the Father.
Now we have the High Tech to Understand the GOD of the Universes is not a 'person', nor is the Son or the Holy Spirit a 'person'.

All religions have some truth in them as the High Tech Truth of LIFE on Earth was lost, after the Original Sin of the First Humans on Earth.
Re-reading Genesis with a High Tech translation, will reveal that Planet Earth was null and void, with a soupy atmosphere, as some planets in our Solar System are.
In Genesis, our Eco System was set up, and the firmament/atmosphere was cleared. Then the species were added and Humans were put in charge of the Eco System and All Life on Earth.
Today, we know the first steps on how to Colonize a Planet, with our High Tech. Clearing the soupy atmosphere would be the first step. That is how Life on Earth was Created 'supernaturally'. High Tech is the Supernatural to Nature. Today, High Tech Science and Religion, are both about Human Life and Species on planet Earth 'in the beginning'.

The Christian Bible records that Adam was made supernaturally. We do know about High Tech reproduction today, and do start making Humans in a dish in the lab, and put the fetus into the female womb, like the Man Gods that flew in the air put the fetus in a High Tech Womb. They are our High Tech Ancestors.
In the beginning, Genetic Pure-bred Humans were reproduced. Adam was not made by Body Birth, nor was Eve. Eve was reproduced from Adam rib. Today we call this Cloning. All the people at the Colonization of Earth were Pure-bred Human Clones or Helpmeets, not mates.
Once Adam and Eve became mates, and reproduced Genetically Inbred Cain and Abel, all people since have been Mis-bred by Body Birth, the Original Sin of Pure-bred Clones. Brothers/Sisters of Life lost their Equality. Killing, Inequality, Inhumanity and Death began on Earth.

The loss of the High Tech knowledge of the Trinity of GOD, the Source of Life, the Atom and Electro-Magnetic Force was lost and religions began. Some kept the knowledge of a One GOD, and some made Trinity Gods of Father, Mother, and Son.
It was only when the Nicene Creed and Christianity changed the Trinity to Father, Son and Spirit, that the True Trinity can be understood today, with our High Tech knowledge.
Then Humans can give up worshipping One God or Trinity Gods, in temples made by Human Hands, and return to Serving the Trinity GOD of LIFE, with Balanced Elements and Eternal Pure-bred Physical Life After Birth.

What kind of Spirit LIFE is there after Death? Do we know? Religion gave people hope to return to Everlasting Life After Death, but Life as we know it, only happens in the Physical Realm of Pure-bred LIFE After Birth.

Dolores Lear

I forgot to include the daughters of God were left out of the Trinity religions of Father, Mother, and Son. The Mother was not considered the daughter.
With the High Tech Trinity, all Humans are Children of GOD, Brothers/Sisters of LIFE, and are not supposed to reproduce by High Tech but keep their High Tech Pure-bred Bodies Eternally Alive with High Tech 'regeneration', like Jesus received by the Father/Angel. Jesus has been Alive in a Pure-bred Body for 2000 years. Our High Tech Ancestors have unlimited years in Human Bodies.

There are High Tech Human Clones in the Universe that Practice Peace and Equal Sharing, that live on High Tech Planets and travel in Spaceships. They did Colonize Life on Earth and will return at the End Times Judgement Day. This also takes Faith to accept High Tech Human Life in the Universes, until we again have contact with them.
But at least we could stop all the Killing and Hate of our Brothers/Sisters of Life.

Dolores Lear

I made a mistake.
I said Brothers/Sisters are not supposed to reproduce by High Tech, but I meant Body Birth. High Tech Brother/Sister Clones should not reproduce by Body Birth, but are supposed to reproduce by High Tech.

Dolores Lear

I guess the Daughter of God has been left out since Eve reproduced the first Killer and all birth defect children since, all Sin has been blamed on the female. When the female cannot give birth unless the male fertilizes her, why is it her fault?

I hope it is time for the female to again take her place as an Equal, to the male religions that have resulted ever since Cain killed Abel. Most of the time it has been the male that was the killer of their Brothers/Sisters of Life. Until females also became soldiers and killers.

How can we change all this Body Birth misery on our Home planet? With the High Tech knowlege of Pure-bred Clone Birth where male and female are Equal in One Soul? Divided Body Birth male and females are not One, and marriage does not make them One. Only Clones are One.

Mary Behr

Re: Religious books in prison. Yikes! Such complex challenges in the 21st century. But, where is it written that we be the only generation(s) that does (do)not have to be confronted by such? There is the sense among some of us in this fortunate country that we are ENTITLED to easy lives.
So, methinks, that as the Trinity is basic to Christianity, so is prayer basic to meeting our challenges. Pray first, then try to think things through.

I will print out Bill's post on the Trinity today. It will take more than one reading to get through this thick skull. I'm reading Obama's Audacity of Hope and both relate to different paradigms of how church and socidety could operate.

Meanwhile, for a break, I shall hum SUMMERTIME (and the living is easy). :) Will have to google the words.

Just Thinking

There is a constitutional right to worship that extends to the prisons of this country. But it's a complex right. There are cases where prison Chaplains allow only the Living Bible or some such watered-down text, and that's all.

I wonder how much of what is going on is aimed at stopping the successful recruitment of Islam that is taking place in our prisons these days.

Dolores Lear

Salley A. Brown. " - the Trinity gives us models for the way power within a congregation should be shared."

Bill. "...spiritual life in North America today is marked by indvidualism and voluntarism, she says. But if we understand what Trinitarian doctine is trying to teach us about how to relate to one another, she writes, we would know that "being
Christian is a communal matter 'before' it is a private one -- an idea foreign to the consciousness of many North Americans."
Christianity was a communal matter in the time of Jesus. All Shared Equally and no one individual owned anything.

Bill. " - Muslims and Jews, whose monotheism finds Trinitarian doctrine deeply problematic, to say the least. That is one reason it behooves Christians to have an articulate grasp of Trinitarian doctrine and especially its monotheistic foundation."
Even though Muslims and Jews have monotheism they still have pagan temples made by human hands. The Temple of GOD is LIFE. And Humans should be the Caretakers of this LIFE, not the Killers.

I explain the High Tech Trinity above, and now that we have High Tech it should be looked at, to see that it does have the Truth of Equal LIFE for All, not just for males and a chosen few, usually males also.
We need to find out why females, in the past were Goddesses, but today are the lesser Child of GOD.
I have stated the reason many times, Mis-bred Body Birth.

Dave Miller

Bill, thank you for highlighting Brown's article. I wish we could read the whole thing.

The first thought that comes to mind is that it's probably no accident that it's a woman who highlights the community which is God's essence--according to the teaching of the Trinity--and how far from that model our congregational life has strayed. The Trinity, with its unity-across-difference, provides us with an apt model and vision.

I'm reminded of Andrei Rublev's famous icon of the Trinity, which joins space and time together in its depiction of this mystery. Interested readers can find it, along with a comment on it, at:

http://www.templeton.org/humble_approach_initiative/Relational_Ontology/artwork.html

(Or if that doesn't work, try clicking on this:

http://tinyurl.com/2ouuza .)

Maybe an icon can do a better job than words in this case. Or maybe in most cases.

Our congregation is considering some restructuring...and I'm going to bring Brown's ideas to the party! Thanks again, Bill.

SC in KC

Regarding "religious" books in prison...

Having worked as a corrections officer in my younger years, and as a volunteer in more recent years, I have seen some of the "religious" books that are being disputed. I've actually had the opportunity to confiscate "religious" literature from several inmates during my time as a corrections officer.

The material in question was normally associated (nominally) with Nordic paganism, and was essentially white supremist hate literature with an illustration of Odin on the cover. In every case, this hate literature came in packaging marked "religious literature".

Articles ranged from such theological issues as "Why N---ers Aren't People", to more practical issues like how to stab hispanic people to have the best chance of killing them. You could find essays about how Jews are trying to take over the world financial markets, and several pages of "jokes" that don't bear repeating here.

This is another example of wicked people using religious freedom to camoflage hatred and obscenity. As dangerous as this sort of thing is within an open society, it's far more dangerous within the closed community of a prison.

SC in KC

Clarification...

Obviously, the books discussed in the article are not the same materials I discussed in my comments. Rather, I provided these comments just for anecdotal reference. If the removed books are similar in nature or content to the materials I described, there is every reason to remove them from a prison environment.

Ron

"But if we understand what Trinitarian doctrine is trying to teach us about how to relate to one another, she writes, we would know that "being Christian is a communal matter before it is a private one -- an idea foreign to the consciousness of many North Americans."

I don't believe the Trinitarian doctrine is trying to teach us anything about how to relate to one another. It's merely a way for us to try and comprehend how God relates to us. Christian congregations that worry about "how power is shared" rather than preaching the Gospel are getting sidetracked from their purpose and mission.

I do have a question. Back when Jews were looking for the Messiah, did they think he would be merely a man like King David? Did Jews think the Messiah would like another prohphet, fully human but more powerfull than previous prophets, sent by God to rescue them from their political and earthly enemies? Did Jews think of the Messiah as being anything like Christians think about Jesus...a divine person, God Himself on earth, in human form?


Rich B

I enjoyed reading about a new emphasis on the Trinity. Last weekend a Protestant friend asked whether the Orthodox Christians talk much about the Holy Spirit, since his church mostly just talked about God and Jesus. The Rublev icon, mentioned above, has a prominent place in Orthodox consciousness. It was hard to answer the question, because we don't talk about God much without talking about all three persons.

A significant point about that icon of the Trinity is that it was based on the icon of the "Hospitality of Abraham," when Abraham entertained God/angels unaware (Gen 18). The link is not just the "three," but the table fellowship. Just as the table fellowship becomes the breaking point between Paul and Peter (Gal 2), that fellowship represents the unity in the Trinity.

All the Abrahamic religions believe table fellowship to be important, but only Christianity makes it central. Hence the Eucharist occupies the focus of Orthodox worship.

When table fellowship is perfected, then we will have perfect peace with each other and with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Patricia

"I guess the Daughter of God has been left out since Eve reproduced the first Killer and all birth defect children since, all Sin has been blamed on the female. When the female cannot give birth unless the male fertilizes her, why is it her fault?"

Good point, Dolores. I'm sure that's exactly what all the early male theologians who developed the academic exercise of the Trinity, were thinking. Or at least, a variation on the theme.

When they re-worked the pagan model of three Gods in power, with a Christian twist, I'm sure there was a conscious effort to make sure there would be no power assigned the female. I'm afraid the best a contemporary author can do is to dampen the damage. Tossing the theory can be a good thing, when we truly want the real meaning of community to function within the church.

Tough to assess the article without the article. I would like to add that this is not just an issue of how "Christians relate to people of other faiths" but also how Trinitarian Christians relate to non-Trinitarian Christians.
----------
Without more on exactly what kind of problems the prisons are having or lists of these "radical" texts, it's tough not to simply view the "burning of the books" as a retro repressive measure.

corbin

Ok Patricia,

So the trinity and God as father are male-born conspiracies. Interesting... sort of.

If you are so sure that this was a male conspiracy, can you give me some sources?

You may be forgetting that devotion to Our Lady was great in the early Church. Mary, as the mother of Christ and being of a Davidic line was very important. Jews would understand that the "Queen" in the Old T. was the king's mother. Some people interpret parts of Revelation as the coronation of Our Lady, Queen of Heaven. So, maybe it isnt as much like 1950's suburbia as you may be referencing.

Patricia

My own favorite interpretation of Revelation is the one where the ticked-off nuns jump into the Popemobile, kidnap him, while assassinating all the attendant Cardinals and then drive the chariot into the sky before dumping the Pope, headpieceless, at the feet of God. She happens to be sitting smack in the middle of a Trinity icon that reads, "Mother, Daughter, Holy Spirit so don't touch the breasts.

She then says to him, "Bennie, we're going to have to make a few changes in the Church, because the boys at Nicaea got it wrong."

corbin

Ok, cute I guess. My favorite is when the souls burning in hell start kicking themselves for holding out hope that this goddess wouldn't require anything of them except tolerance and politeness.

I am ok if you want to push this goddess stuff, but in Scripture and in Christian tradition it is clear that God is Father meaning he has the attributes of earthly father and fatherhood mirrors Christ's relationship with the Church. I dont see why you cant just go on your way and leave Christianity alone. You don't believe in Sacred Scripture, you don't believe in the divinity of Christ, and on and on... so why is it so important to historicistically change what has always been held as true in Christian tradition? Oh right, because it was a bunch of men and men in power = bad; gender is a construct; moms can be dads, dads can be daughters, and biology is just some random nonsense that we need to get over.

Really though, devotion to Mary, the Mother of God has constantly been a part of the Church. It is hard for non-Catholics to grasp, but our understanding of the heavens is more familial in its relation to itself and to us humans. So, it is my contention that devotion to Mary, as the Mother of God, the Theokotos, displaces this insistence that this is some sort of typical bad men experiment in power politics. Mary is a model for women, Christ is a model for men. Mary is also a model of the Church prefigured in the ark of the covenant, Eve, etc...

St. Methodius:
"Hail to you forever, you virgin Mother of God, our unceasing joy, for unto you do I again return. . . . Hail, you fount of the Son’s love for man. . . . Wherefore, we pray you, the most excellent among women, who boast in the confidence of your maternal honors, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy Mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in august hymns celebrate your memory, which will ever live, and never fade away"

Patricia

Please, Corbin. No need to convince me. If ever there was proof-positive that the church is not running "some sort of typical bad men experiment in power politics", it's...............you.

corbin

What do you think of St. Methodius's prayer?

Patricia

What I think is that this is my last post for the day so that others can carry on their Trinitarian discussion without it either being feminist-centric or another entire blog devoted to Catholicism.

corbin

Do you have a hard time with devotion to Our Lady?

Mary Behr

Thanks Dave for the website linc to the iconic portrait of the Trinity. I recognized it as a print used by our church artist for a presentation on images connected to prayer. I was not able to attend that lecture, but I will send the linc to her. I wish it was larger, though. Maybe I can enlarge it. Or else ask Delita to send me a copy by e mail. We have her paintings of the Transfiguration and the Good Shepherd in our church. Glad you are still with us, Dave. And glad to hear that other churches are rethinking how to organize things. Just as we as individuals can do the same as situations change. I never cared much for the artistic aspect of icons, but you can so teach an old dog new tricks. My daughter reminds me of that when I show signs of losing heart.

Incidentally, regarding new ways, a reflection at church today was about our Catholic parish and diocese being in a unique place--large and growing. The old models of organization don't work. Shall we toss them out? No, do our best to incorporate them into new models. "mistakes will be made--be patient with the process and with yourselves." Over 2,500 registered families and 43 active ministries cannot be served by two priests and 4 decons. Educated laypersons (see Patricia, I didn't say LayMEN :)) and trained volunteers work together as needed. We play the cards we are dealt. We may not see the whole pattern from where we are, but we can keep on learning and growing, with the grace of God.

Appreciated the contribution about "religious materials" labels being used for hate literature in prisons. anectodal, but another aspect to consider.

Ruth from Tucson

Metaphors are powerful ways of describing reality in terms we can visualize.

These can tell us important things about the nature of God if we don’t get so hung up in the model that we lose the meaning.

When the Hindu speaks of Shiva and Vishnu is he describing attributes of God?

A Buddhist friend visited our congregation and told us about his faith. One insight he shared was that “God has many faces.”

Another one says:
“God is like the Greek actor who dons different masks (persona) to reveal facets of personality”.


Joe Barone

The most diverse congregation I've ever attended is the Unitarian-Universalist congregation I attend now. It is diverse in the range of religious beliefs of the people involved, as well as in things like gender preference. That's not to say that the congregation doesn't have its power structures as all congregations do, but I don't see how Trinitarian belief would change that.

Joe Barone

Just for the fun of it, I worked through a DVD course taught by Bart Ehrman called "Christian Scriptures and the Battle Over Authentication." It is done through The Teaching Company.

Though Ehrman didn't say this, I came to think trinitarianism was a proto-orthodox response to other forms of Christianity such as that of Marcion who believed in two gods and Gnosticism which had an elaborate structure involving a number of "sub-gods" (my term, not Ehrman's).

How do you espouse one god but appeal to groups that believe in several gods, some more superior than others? A belief in the Trinity might be one way.

Whether you're unitarian or trinitarian (or non-atarian, to make up a word), your belief is just an opinion. Only "God" knows, and none of us are God. None of us will know until "farther along." Unless of course, we're all surprised and there's nothing beyond what we have now.

Joe Barone

If I'm going to post, I do so before reading the comments. Patricia, I thought your kidnapping the pope piece was hilarious. And Ruth, I'd love to be a little overhearing mouse in your church someday.

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