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Switch to Forum Live View Explaining the Trinity
3 years ago  ::  Jun 17, 2011 - 12:19AM #1
tawonda
Posts: 4,367
This isn't a specifically Lutheran issue, but...

Perhaps serendipitously this Thursday before Trinity Sunday, someone (I rather suspect a Muslim)  on the Christian Faith and Life forum asked for clarification regarding the nature of Jesus. He seemed especially perplexed, and offended, by the idea of a divine Jesus dying.

In trying to explain the dual nature of Jesus, I got into the more general topic of the Trinity. I think I answered this individual's questions to my own satisfaction, but I'm not sure I answered them to his.;-) (Feel free to mosey over there and read my responses.)

Anyway: How would the rest of you describe the Trinity to a confused and skeptical other? Do you think that there is something about the concept of the Trinity that is particularly hard for contemporary folks to swallow? And how would you address that? (At one point I pulled out a favorite line from Henri Nouwen: "God loves relationships so much that God IS a relationship.")
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3 years ago  ::  Jun 17, 2011 - 9:55AM #2
AFskypilot
Posts: 352

Just read a book that points out Muslims do not believe it is Jesus that died on the cross, but rather at the last moment Allah switched Judas for Jesus and it was Judas that died on the cross for betraying Jesus.  Jesus is then taken up into heaven to be with Mohammed and Allah. 


Thus, it is offensive to hear that Jesus died on the cross for a Muslim.  And it is folly for the rest of the world.


How to explain the Trinity?  There is really no good and reasonable answer.  I have used the example of an apple (seed, meet, skin).  I have also used the example of a tree (roots, trunk, leaves), but  I find any concrete illustration I can think of fails to get the point completely across. 


Somethings are just unexplainable.  That is part of the mystery of God.

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3 years ago  ::  Jun 17, 2011 - 1:38PM #3
dearwatson
Posts: 168

One might like to place emphasis in this day an age a Biblical presentation of the Trinity.  This is a moot point if others present a different holy book or sees Jesus as just one of many desert gurus.


The doctrine of the Trinity arose in Christianity because it focuses on who God is, and the deity of Christ Jesus.  The theological basis of the Triniyt arose from systematically putting together biblical themes and information that led to the historical development of the present orthodox view.   In the Scriptures, so far as "Trinity" is never used nor Trintarianism explicit , Trinitarianism is the best explication of how God is known.


The basic purpose of the doctrine for the Early Christians was to elevate Christ while maintaining Judaic monotheism.  In this respect,  it has limited 'street value' today because it obviously creates more problems than it solves.

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3 years ago  ::  Jun 17, 2011 - 5:52PM #4
dearwatson
Posts: 168

Some concrete analogies of the theology behind having one what and three whoms:  (a) The unity between a river and its source.  (b) The unity between a shoot and its root.


The difficulty remains in caputring a mystery with analogy.  Eventually they all break down or have some failing.  Jesus himself had a problem with this and his mustard seed parable.


 

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3 years ago  ::  Jun 18, 2011 - 7:48AM #5
Nino0814
Posts: 1,745

IMO the trinity is a human perspective of an eternal mysterious God.  We imagine God's relationships from our time-bound point of view.  It is a concept that is limited, but it has helped guide the worship practices of the Church, therefore it functions effectively.


God is timeless, and therefore God's relationship with all creation is eternal.  IMO it means God has always had a relationship with me.   This is possible for God (only) since God's "now" is all of time.


God's primary relationship is with Jesus of Nazareth because he exemplified God's image (nature in human form).  From our point of view God "highly exalted him", but from God's point of view Jesus of Nazareth is his beloved one from all eternity.


From our point of view Jesus is the incarnation of God (meaning God is expressed to us in him - "Logos"). 


I do not imagine that the "Logos" existed before the Son of God, and became the Son of God in the incarnation (as traditionally understood). I believe the Son to be eternal from God's point of view, and the Son (Jesus of Nazareth) is the "ground of being" of the Logos. 


The Spirit of God is the seal of that eternal life of God's relationship with Christ and us.  Augustine described the Spirit of God as the love bond between the Father and the Son.

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3 years ago  ::  Jun 18, 2011 - 2:10PM #6
G_Erdner
Posts: 170

A good start to understanding the Trinity is the Athanasian Creed. The ELCA left it out of ELW, claiming they didn't have room for it, even though there are four blank pages at the end of the hymnal. However, it's on page 54 of the Lutheran Book of Worship, and is also (I think) in the Lutheran Service Book. And, you can easily find it online with any good search engine.

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3 years ago  ::  Jun 18, 2011 - 5:47PM #7
tawonda
Posts: 4,367

The Athanasian Creed does have one of the better explanations of the Trinity, and in fact I recommended it to the person on the other forum.


Its implication, though, that anyone who doesn't affirm every jot and tittle of it is doomed to hell is a real theological problem, though, at least for people who affirm that we're saved by grace through faith and not by always thinking the "right" things about God.  But I still think that even theologically unsophisticated laypeople can glean some understanding of the Trinitarian proposition out of reading it, even if it makes their heads explode a little.


(I dislike the ELW for several reasons, including the dumbing-down of content -- which I think has mostly to do with a misguided effort to be "accessible" and user-friendly. Ditto some of the new kindergarten lyrics to hymns...but that's another topic for another thread.;-))

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3 years ago  ::  Jun 25, 2011 - 1:45PM #8
teilhard
Posts: 51,052

One of The Problems with The Athanasian Creed is that it is as much "Polemic" as "Confession" ...

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3 years ago  ::  Jun 25, 2011 - 4:21PM #9
WannabeTheo
Posts: 400

In fairness to the ELW, it is a service book, and not once in my life, either in the LCMS, ELCA or any other service I've attended, has the congregation recited the Athanasian creed in the same way we recite the Nicene or Apostle's creed.

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3 years ago  ::  Jun 25, 2011 - 4:35PM #10
G_Erdner
Posts: 170

Jun 25, 2011 -- 4:21PM, WannabeTheo wrote:


In fairness to the ELW, it is a service book, and not once in my life, either in the LCMS, ELCA or any other service I've attended, has the congregation recited the Athanasian creed in the same way we recite the Nicene or Apostle's creed.




From the ELCA website:


The Confession of Faith of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is part of our founding constitution. The ELCA accepts the following creeds as true declarations of the faith of this church:




If your congregation didn't use the Athanasian Creed, shame on them. It is supposed to be used.


Whether it is commonly used or not, it is part of the fundamental core of Lutheran belief. It's not an option to be thrown out for no good reason. There are five blank pages at the end of ELW. There is no good reason for omitting the Athanasian Creed.


So maybe some think it "polemic". It is a strongly worded rebuttal of the Arian heresy. There was a time when being a Christian actually meant taking a stand for correct teaching and opposing heresy. I suppose too many Lutheran Christians lack the faith or courage of their convictions nowadays to accept such steadfastness. Instead, actually believing something with faith is an embarrassment, and something to scoff at. Nowadays, we labor under the mistaken philosophy that all points of view are equal and interchangeable, even if they are polar opposites.

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