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

Just Thinking

Ruth Graham is a kind woman who knows how to live a life devoted to God and who seems very wise.

Ruth Graham was asked by a reporter if there was anything that she would like to change about Billy. She answered, "It's my job to love Billy--it's God's job to change him."

Patricia

Seconds on the praise for Ruth Graham and prayers and positive thoughts with her and for her.
----------

Thanks, Joe. I find your comments on the Trinity quite interesting and probably quite valid. My problems with the concept aren't primarily or exclusively concentrated on its sexism. My biggest problem is that I find it very much a church/political construct, as opposed to something that is genuinely central or derived from Jesus' teachings.

Along with the notice that some scholars have taken on the pagan traditions of triune Gods, there are others who note that the Roman pagan religion was based on the Indo-European trifunctionality. To include a trinity in Christianity, may well have been either a natural integration of that notion, or it may have been a means to get Roman support for Christianity by making it more "pagan friendly" or "pagan-like".

Patricia

Here's a link, Ron, that discusses the Jewish concept of Messiah.
http://www.jewsforjudaism.org/web/faq/general-messiah-jewishresponse.html

Just Thinking

It is interesting to look at some of the names for the Holy Spirit:

The Spirit of God
God's Spirit
The Spirit of the Lord
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord
The Spirit of the living God
The Spirit of Christ
The Spirit of His Son
The Spirit of Jesus Christ
The Spirit of Jesus
a Spirit of Fire
a Spirit of Judgment
The Spirit of Holiness
The promised Holy Spirit
The Spirit of Truth
The Spirit of Life
The Spirit of Wisdom
The Spirit of Grace
The Spirit of Glory
The Eternal Spirit
The Counselor

Here is something that Jesus said about the Holy Spirit:

John 16
5 "Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

16 "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me."

Ron

The New Testament says Messiah means "Christ." The Jews for Judiasm website makes no mention of this fact.

John 1
41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ).

John 4
25 The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things."

The Jews for Judiasm website says everyone will know when the Messiah comes. It will be self evident; a matter of historical fact. The Messiah will rule Isreal in a time of perfection. If this is true, I wonder why the Jewish leaders and people who lived at the time of Jesus were trying to figure out who the Messiah was, and if Jesus were him. I guess they never read the Jews for Judiasm website because, if they had, they would have known it would be self-evident.

The Jews for Judiasm website says that the Messiah is a rather unimportant question to Jews. God spoke of the Messiah (The Christ) to Adam and Eve, Abraham and others. I guess God thinks the Christ is quite a bit more important than Jews do.

Dan

This is getting a little confusing?
But I believe that Atom is good to go when understandig the overall essence of God.

Proton = Father
Neutron = Son
Electron = Holy Spirit.
3 parts one Atom

God created matter and it would make since that he created so that people could recognize Him in it.
3 parts one God

Mark Hayse

George Cladis, in his book "Leading the Team-Based Church", describes a practical theology of shared ministry that is grounded in the idea of the Trinity. It is very readable and quite engaging. Readers who are interested in Sally A. Brown's comments might also find George Cladis' book interesting as well.

Patricia

"If this is true, I wonder why the Jewish leaders and people who lived at the time of Jesus were trying to figure out who the Messiah was, and if Jesus were him."

The Jewish point seems to be that they associate a coming of the Messiah with radical change to the existing world and world order. Their point, which is tough to argue, is that if the first coming was really "righteous" or a success, then Christians would not have to hold out hope for a second coming. The changes and perfection would have happened the first time around. Their first coming would look more like our second coming.

I think we forget that Jesus and Christianity did not result in a lessening of oppression or suffering. In my opinion, the new Christian pact with government was not a lot different than the old Jewish pact with government. The new Christian church perpetrated the same sort of evil as the old temples.

Ruth from Tucson

Joe – all you mice are welcome at the table.

But you might find our worship services boring if you are researching where we stand on issues like unitarian/trinitarian, doctrines or creeds. These are personal matters. And since we celebrate communion every time and place we meet in His name, we don’t talk at all during a segment of the service.

We congregational type denominations (UCC, Disciple, American Baptist,,) do not recite creeds etc in our services. But we do talk about these in Sunday school classes and other gatherings. We respect the rights of others to differ and we affirm that they too are on a valid path. As a physical scientist with a mater’s degree I appreciate this respect for our brains as well as our souls.

A visiting professor and his wife from Japan took part in our fellowship while they were in Tucson. We enjoyed hearing about his Buddhist religion. The minister teaching the inquiry class for prospective members told us about the persona. He identified himself as a unitarian but he saw the attributes of God expressed as trinity doctrine. All this debate looks much like semantics.

Rich B

I think that the Trinity has been and still is central to Christianity. All the creeds discuss the relationship among the persons of the Trinity (not just the official Nicene-Constaniopolitan creed, but earlier ones, too; see J.N.D. Kelly's, "Early Christian Creeds").

Understanding the Trinity was understanding salvation. According to Scripture, we are saved when we declare that Jesus is Lord. But what does it mean to say Jesus is Lord?

The early Church was extensively debating this issue as one central to salvation. Before one dismisses the Trinity as trivial or artificial, one should read Athanasius, "On the Incarnation," which explains in depth how Christ's full divinity is necessary for humanity's salvation. Similarly, Basil the Great wrote, "On the Holy Spirit," which argues for the full divinity of the Holy Spirit.

I'm not predicting that these books will convince everyone; they demonstrate the authors' case but do not prove it without a shadow of doubt. Nevertheless, I think that they demonstrate expertly the issues at hand by some of the best thinkers of their day.

Ron

"I think we forget that Jesus and Christianity did not result in a lessening of oppression or suffering"

I think (and the Bible says) that Jesus did not come to lessen oppression or suffering. Why do you think the Jews rejected Him? They thought this was why the Messiah was coming.

In truth, Jesus came to die for our sins and offer salvation to all who believe in Him as Lord and Savior.

As Jesus said, the poor will always be with us, and his comiing would not bring peace, but would set brother against brother, etc. I'm sure JT can provide the exact Bible verses, if you care to see them.

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