As Christians move through this Advent season toward Christmas, one of the doctrinal realities of the faith is that the incarnation ultimately required followers of Jesus to explain what the church universal taught about the Holy Trinity, traditionally described as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It's hard to imagine any doctrine of any faith tradition that has been as difficult as the Trinity to explain and that has been more misunderstood through the use of inadequate analogies (ice, liquid water, steam, all H20).
And yet Christians are obliged to have some kind of explanation.
A few years ago, a pastor friend asked me to come preach in his Oklahoma church -- and, naturally, he asked me to do so on so-called Trinity Sunday in June, when lots of pastors seem to invite guest preachers in so they themselves don't have to take one more run at helping congregants grasp what the Trinity is all about.
I gave it a go, and you can find that sermon in my last book, The Value of Doubt. I told the congregation that I found it helpful to think about each member of the Trinity as a different means of calling all of us to faith.
One of the best explanations of the Trinity I've every found is in Miroslav Volf's book, Allah: A Christian Response. Among many other points Volf makes is this:
"God is not one thing among many other things in the universe, not even one supremely important thing without which none of the other things could exist. Instead, God is unique and categorically different from the world. We always go wrong when we employ numbers with regard to God the way we employ them with regard to created things. . .(T)o say that there are three 'Persons' in God means only that there are three eternal, inseparable and interpenetrating agencies; in each, the other two are present, and in each, the single divine essence is present."
Got it? (Does the image here today from Wikipedia help?)
If not, today I point you to a source I learned about recently on discovering that today is the anniversary of the 1957 death of English writer and Christian apologist Dorothy Sayers. One of her books still can be found here and there, including on Amazon. It's The Mind of the Maker, and is said to contain some lucid explanations of the Holy Trinity. I haven't had a chance to get and read a copy, but it's on my list -- a list I've made and, in this case, a list I'm checking thrice.
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CHANGING HOW THE CATHOLIC CHURCH HANDLES SEX ABUSE
Pope Francis yesterday issued new rules for how sexual abuse cases in the church are to be handled, and at least at first glance they appear to be substantial and important. Among other things, the rules now "forbid imposing an obligation of silence on those who report sex abuse or allege they have been a victim," as the Reuters story to which I've linked you reports. It always takes a bit of time for the Catholic world to digest such changes, so let's wait a few days before making a final determination about whether this is major progress, a small step forward or something else.