Trinity Sunday an opportunity to jettison authoritarian notion of God

By Glen Argan

Trinity Sunday is an invitation to get our understanding of God right. This may seem like an abstract, intellectual exercise, but it is not. It has enormous ramifications for our lives and for our world.

The 20th century theologian Karl Rahner once wrote that although most Christians profess a belief in the Trinity, they are in fact monotheists. That is, they act as though God is a being who exists over and against humanity. God’s infinity and all-powerfulness dwarfs humanity to relative non-existence. God’s absolute and authoritarian nature leads us to cower in a relationship of fear. Not fear of the Lord, but just plain fear.

Icon of Trinity1The historical backlash to the assumption of a monotheistic God is rebellion against this God. When modern science and modern political movements pushed for freedom of inquiry and liberal democracy, the authoritarian, static God was pushed to the sidelines. It didn’t take long for God’s existence to be questioned and finally denied.

With God out of the way, a new society and economy based on the myth of continual progress took root. Creation became a means to an end; its exploitation became a path to the enrichment of the powerful and the marginalization of millions of people whose God-given dignity was denied.

The Church, for its part, fought against democracy and in favour of maintaining the old, but decaying societal structures.

The Christian understanding of the Trinity, well rooted in Scripture, casts out the notion of God as a fierce, implacable being. What it offers is the God of Jesus Christ whose incarnation, public ministry, suffering, death and resurrection reveal God’s abiding love for humanity and human persons.

Jesus is one with the Father but is not the Father. The Spirit is not an impersonal force, but the love between the Father and Son made real in a third divine person. The Spirit continues and spreads the mission of Christ. What is that mission? To bring us into union with the triune God. The gap between God and humanity is unbridgeable, but God, out of an incalculable mercy, has bridged that gap.

The Gospel for Trinity Sunday is taken from Jesus’ lengthy Last Supper discourse where he discusses his union with the Father and the role and person of the Holy Spirit. In this excerpt, Jesus says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.… He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine.”

This “truth” which Jesus mentions is not the truth of propositions, but the truth which is the fullness of life. Personal truth. Truth which unites us with God, the God who is love. Into that truth, the Spirit guides us.

God is not a distant God, but the God into whose life we are invited to enter. The body of believers is one body, disciples in communion with each other and with the triune God.

For us, this means to love and respect God, God’s creation and our fellow humans, especially those marginalized from the communion of love. It is a different relationship with God, and, if taken seriously, it will lead to a different form of society.

Readings for Trinity Sunday, June 16, 2019
Proverbs 8.22-31 | Psalm 8 | Romans 5.1-5 | John 16.12-15

(See more articles like this at On the Threshold)

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