December 16, 2017

Eugene Peterson on Trinity

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Trinity is the most comprehensive and integrative framework that we have for understanding and participating in the Christian life. Early on in our history, our pastors and teachers formulated the Trinity to express what is distinctive in the revelation of God in Christ. This theology provides an immense horizon against which we can understand and practice the Christian life largely and comprehensively. Without an adequately imagined theology, spirituality gets reduced to the cramped world reported by journalists or the flat world studied by scientists. Trinity reveals the immense world of God creating, saving, and blessing in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with immediate and lived implications for the way we live, for our spirituality. Trinity is the church’s attempt to understand God’s revelation of Godself in all its parts and relationships. And a most useful work it has been. At a most practical level it provides a way of understanding and responding to God who enters into all the day-to-day issues that we face as persons and churches and communities from the time we get out of bed in the morning until we fall asleep at night, and reaches out to bring us into participation on God’s terms, that is, on Trinitarian terms. It prevents us from getting involved in highly religious but soul-destroying ways of going about living the Christian life.

Trinity understand God as three-personed: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God in community, each “person” in active communion with the others. We are given an understanding of God that is most emphatically personal and interpersonal. God is nothing if not personal. If God is revealed as personal, the only way that God can be known is in personal response. We need to know this. It is the easiest thing in the world to use words as a kind of abstract truth or principle, to deal with the gospel as information. Trinity prevents us from doing this. We can never get away with depersonalizing the gospel or the truth to make it easier, simpler, more convenient. Knowing God through impersonal abstractions is ruled out, knowing God through programmatic projects is abandoned, knowing God in solitary isolation is forbidden. Trinity insists that God is not an idea or a force or a private experience but personal and known only in personal response and engagement.

Trinity also prevents us from reducing God to what we can understand or need at any one time. There is a lot going on in us and in this world, far exceeding what we are capable of taking in. In dealing with God, we are dealing in mystery, in what we do not know, what we cannot control or deal with on our terms. We need to know this, for we live in a world that over-respects the practical. We want God to be “relevant” to our lifestyle. We want what we can, as we say, “get a handle on.” There is immense peer pressure to reduce God to fit immediate needs and expectations. But God is never a commodity to use. In a functionalized world in which we are all trained to understand ourselves in terms of what we can do, we are faced with a reality we cannot control. And so we cultivate reverence. . . . Trinity keeps pulling us into a far larger world than we can imagine on our own.

And Trinity is a steady call and invitation to participate in the energetically active life of God — the image of the dance [perichoresis] again. It is the participation in the Trinity (God as he has revealed himself to us) that makes things and people particularly and distinctively who they are. We are not spectators to God; there is always a hand reaching out to pull us into the Trinitarian actions of holy creation, holy salvation, and holy community. . . .

• Eugene Peterson
Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology

Comments

  1. Might we say that the trinity will ultimately resolve into a quaternity. The cross is the joining point. The final chapter, the marriage supper of the lamb; the consummation of Christ and his bride. The full Union of the trinity to humanity. And then there were four. Is that too brash, too bold a thing to think on the part of what might be the piddliest, weakest beings in the universe? The scriptures are overflowing with the idea. Us in eternal union with God, enjoined to the trinity as one. That oneness may be the overarching theme of the New Testament. Theosis. The whole idea is stunning. It’s almost too crazy to believe. That thought alone makes me think there might need to be a purgatory. I believe I will need quite some refining before taking my seat in that company. Well one thing at a time. Find a way here and now to not call that guy a schmuck for stealing the parking space he knows I was waiting for. Love. It’s a tough business.

    • And then there were four. Interesting thought, Chris. I’ll be mulling on that for a bit!

    • My understanding is that in the Incarnation of Jesus God has fully united himself with humanity; that we are afforded the opportunity to fully participate in that reality is the result of God’s having already made humanity and divinity one in Jesus Christ.

      • If this is so, then where we fail to fully live into the completed humanity provided in Jesus Christ, we are failing to retain the gift of perfected and realized humanity that he has given, rather than failing to perfect our own personal humanity. Our choice is to remain in the humanity that Jesus has provided, or to move away from it and be less than human.

    • Chris,

      As Robert notes, that union has already happened in the Incarnation. My experience has been that most Protestants don’t really consider the ramifications of the Incarnation – it’s looked at simply a way for God to be able to shed blood and die. Although it is impossible for created beings to be united to the Trinity in the way you seem to be expressing, the Incarnation is a union that is appropriate between created humanity and uncreated God, and it’s something that only God could accomplish and sustain. Most classical Christian theology posits that the Incarnation was God’s plan from the beginning, and that “the image of God” in which humanity was created was actually Christ. The vocabulary including the phrase “the marriage supper of the Lamb” is an attempt to describe the fullness of that union, which is to come. I don’t think it’s going to be like “The Matrix” or any kind of “Singularity” – but rather the fullness of union between Like and Unlike, as in the marriage of a woman and man, some of which, as Robert also writes, we can known now as we become more human.

      Dana

      • that union has already happened in the Incarnation.

        That’s a huge way of thinking about. Jesus as all three in one.

        If we didn’t have the OT, would we have the concept of the Trinity? And if we discovered it nowadays, would we develop one?

        It seems that because of Jesus we do a lot of bending over and reading backwards into where Jesus was during the OT, as if The Son actually existed in bodily form back then…because God is timeless and who cares when Jesus was born/died/resurrected, that somehow means he’s…always been bodily? Wibbly wobbley.

        I’m starting to wonder if we need the concept of the Trinity. We have Jesus. We have the Spirit of Jesus, aka the Holy Spirit. We have what’s referred to by Jesus as the Father, but that’s an incredibly generic non corporeal type of concept whom no one has seen. But we have Jesus. idk.

        • Dana Ames says:

          Stuart,

          the more reading I have done in my journey, the more praying, in all my experience, the more I have come to believe that the Trinity isn’t a “concept” but is the Reality behind reality. It is essential to our understanding of, well, everything (insofar as it is possible to understand)… what we call “God”, Jesus, what love is and involves, anthropology, what it means to be “saved,” – the whole shootin’ match. I set out on my journey because I needed a theology that was seamless, integrated and holistic – in which everything held together and was connected, but was elastic enough to let me bump up against it with my questions. I believe God led me to where I could find it…

          I’ve also found that the OT doesn’t make sense unless read through the lens of the Cross and Resurrection with the given of the Incarnation, and read in the community of Christians that has existed from the beginning and has faithfully handed down an interpretation of scripture based on its experience with Christ. Of course the Son did not exist in bodily form in OT times. However, EOrthodox understanding is that all the encounters with The LORD in the OT were with the Son, because Jesus said that no one has seen the Father except the Son, who has revealed the Father. That has the ring of truth about it for me.

          The Orthodox understanding is that doctrine – that is, the meaning of who Christ is and what he has done – was revealed by Christ himself to the Apostles, and the Holy Spirit enlightened them and helped them remember and explain it in their Jewish milieu. When Christians later came up against questions in non-Jewish contexts, they had to be able to articulate the meaning of who Jesus is and what God is up to in the language and milieu of the questioners. That’s not “development” of doctrine, but rather unfolding or unpacking it in different contexts. Interestingly, it took a long time for the Church Fathers to say anything about the Holy Spirit, and when they did, they basically only said and wrote enough to affirm that the HS is also God – the Lord, the Giver of Life, who is the One who works in us – and that working is grace, which is not separate in any way from God; God can’t not be in his actions. Again, that has the ring of truth about it to me.

          You’re still in the process of “detoxing” from what you were raised with. We’ve all had questions, which is why we’ve been in the wilderness – and we still do have them. Showing up here and letting us in on your thoughts is very much appreciated. I hope that we are loving you well.

          Dana

      • The New Testament, from beginning to end, is saturated with a radical idea of oneness. If you have seen me you have seen the Father. To just pick just that one out of the myriad verses is to recognize no line of seperation. No room to parse. We mostly agree about that. The full nature of it is a monumental conundrum to our pea brains but we acknowledge its truth. We further acknowledge to Holy Spirit as one in being with the Father and the son. All I am suggesting is that when Jesus and Paul and others suggest that we are to be brought into that unity of being, which really seems to be Gods whole purpose (this is a profound mystery but I speak concerning Christ and the church) and maybe the only one worth the pain, how can we logically begin parsing what oneness means and make it less one or sort of one or synonymous with one but not exactly one? Why shy from the grandest scheme ever conceived? One that thwarts evil, unites opposites and spreads unbounded joy through the universe. It’s impossible, inconceivable and against all rationality. But here it is under our noses in black and white. I think it’s about the human and the divine becoming, and it’s spilling out of the scriptures, one. One is one. It’s not two or more. It’s not even one A and one B. I really think I am only using different words to say exactly what it is saying. It makes it all the more imperative that we become fully human. Fully realize the potential for these temples made of clay. I’ve never stepped foot inside a seminary so I humbly hold out the possibility that I’m wrong but it seems to be a simple case of logic. One seems to mean one.

        • What I am not saying is that we are the Father or we are Jesus or the Spirit. Therein is the mystery. Jesus said I and the Father are one. If you have seen me you have seen the Father. Nonetheless there was an other named the Father to whom he referred. It’s this and that at the same time.

  2. That last paragraph…wow.

    –> And Trinity is a steady call and invitation to participate in the energetically active life of God… It is the participation in the Trinity (God as he has revealed himself to us) that makes things and people particularly and distinctively who they are. We are not spectators to God; there is always a hand reaching out to pull us into the Trinitarian actions of holy creation, holy salvation, and holy community. . . .”

    I’ve been leading an adult class through Luke and we just read the account when Jesus, about a year into his ministry, gives the disciples his power and authority and sends them out to do the things he’s been doing. I remarked that I think it was from that point on that the disciples became more active in his ministry, went from following and watching and learning to participating. (For instance, the feeding of the 5,000 comes just after they return.) One could say that from the moment Jesus gave the disciples that power and authority was the Triune God involving them in his holy creation, holy salvation and holy community. And we are allowed that same involvement. Praise to our gracious King.

  3. Christiane says:

    “Trinity keeps pulling us into a far larger world than we can imagine on our own.
    . . . . . the image of the dance . . .
    . . . . there is always a hand reaching out to pull us into the Trinitarian actions of holy creation, holy salvation, and holy community. . . .”

    “May God give you to drink from the sacred well of the Trinity” (from an old Irish blessing)

  4. Love overflows my heart this morning that the Master and creator of all has made a way for me. I should say you and I. Today will be excruciating pain all day and I will pray for days end and job finished only to find it didn’t end but through the night watches I will wake over and over to the pain and stiffness of a stubborn knee like me. Lord have mercy and help me. I have no where else to go. In the midst of it all I find love brings this joy to my heart during the day and a tear or two drop and I say let’s go I love You and I just know You love me. My precious Lord Jesus who made it complete. it is finished so to speak. It is here I bow at the end of the day to bless mountain cats with a pat of the head and some food in their belly and I find love. See it, experience it and become part of it and no one can take it from me ever. May this God bless all of you today and forever amen.

  5. The translations of the bible that refer to the ‘holy spirit’ as being some form of freestanding ghost rather than an emotion are erroneous. Luther himself toyed with the idea of correcting the record and doing away with the doctrine but decided to go along with it.

  6. turnsalso says:

    Trinity insists that God is not an idea or a force or a private experience but personal and known only in personal response and engagement.

    The distinction between “personal” and “private” is very important.

  7. The slightest of alterations, but Mr. Peterson would have us sing:

    Holy, Holy, Holy,
    Merciful and mighty,
    God in three “persons”,
    Blesses Trinity.

    I prefer it without the quotation marks.

  8. I like Peterson, but what’s with “trinity” as opposed to “the Trinity”? It is, to say the leadt, unsetyling usage (to me, and i am not dure i can fully explain why at the moment).

  9. Is the Trinity largely a concept used to explain Jesus within the context of ancient Jewish writings about God, most of which were probably made up and became legend following various Exiles?

    If the original church hadn’t had Jewish members and hadn’t needed Paul to go into deep scriptures to tie it back to the Jews…would we have the Trinity?

  10. Not to be a fly in the ointment but I find all this extremely problematical. Like a lot of theological subjects when we discuss the Trinity we can rapidly find ourselves talking a great deal but not saying very much. If we don’t stop to ask if we agree on what we’re actually talking about we do fine. But the minute we start parsing our concepts then of course the fun begins.

    There is the famous (and possibly apocryphal) sermon I was told about while in seminary.

    The theologian, speaking from the pulpit: “Today I am tasked with preaching a sermon about the Holy Trinity. If you understand the Holy Trinity then you have no need for my sermon. If you do not understand the Holy Trinity then I couldn’t possibly explain it to you in the time allotted. Amen.”

    Would God all theologians were so crisp and concise. And of course the theologian gets by without having to demonstrate that HE understands the Holy Trinity.

    “Early on in our history, our pastors and teachers formulated the Trinity to express what is distinctive in the revelation of God in Christ.”

    But not very early and with very little agreement.

    “Without an adequately imagined theology, spirituality gets reduced to the cramped world reported by journalists or the flat world studied by scientists.”

    Perhaps not precisely what Mr Peterson meant but perhaps it IS better to think of theology as an act of imagination rather than as a branch of philosophy. I would just point out how anemic most theology becomes in the face of that so-called “cramped”, “flat” world he bemoans.

    • The theologian, speaking from the pulpit: “Today I am tasked with preaching a sermon about the Holy Trinity. If you understand the Holy Trinity then you have no need for my sermon. If you do not understand the Holy Trinity then I couldn’t possibly explain it to you in the time allotted. Amen.”

      And see, to me, if I were an outsider, this would imply that the Trinity is a theological house of cards build on sand and totally made up just to better bandage the gap between the OT and NT scriptures and an attempt to prop up and position Jesus into something more than he is or says he was because we want it to be so.

      Is The Trinity Biblical?

      I don’t know.

      But it sure is Church-ical.

      • Also seems like an ancient boundary marker. Have a disagreement? Well, you don’t believe in Jesus or Trinity like I do, so you are anathema, we’ve got the numbers to put the record down, and we won, so now it’s true.

      • to better bandage the gap between the OT and NT scriptures

        And not only this, but to prop up mythical understandings of Scripture and ignore (or never knew) the reality of how those OT scriptures were constructed and created and made.

        Bad exegesis (or really good esisgeis) all the way down.

    • Love that Holy Trinity sermon example.

      Not sure this fits with what you’re saying, but maybe it does…

      I just began leading a men’s group through Colossians. Last week, before we looked at Col. 1:15-22 (“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…etc., etc.”) I had everyone imagine hearing these words for the first time, for the first time EVER, as a Gentile at Colossae, before theologies existed and before denominations existed.

      Paul’s description puts Jesus in a realm that’s hard to imagine, yet theologies and denominations still try. The box Jesus is in is HUGE, or maybe doesn’t exist at all, yet we still try to fit him inside it.

      Same with the concept of the Holy Trinity, I’m thinking. The box…whatever size it is, it’s too small.

  11. Could someone explain to me, as if I were a newbie, the basic concept of the Trinity, and what’s so important about it, and why it is so important?

    Just a thought exercise. Start from scratch. What it is, how it came to be, why it did, why we need it.

    • Good questions. “Sign on the dotted line that you believe in the Holy Trinity and you’re in!”

      Not sure God cares that we believe in the Three-in-One as we humans try to capture the concept. Believe in God? Yep. Believe in Jesus? Yep. Believe there’s a Holy Spirit? Yep.

      Believe that they’re somehow wrapped together? Not sure.

      • really makes you rethink those denominational and cultic boundaries if Trinity Belief isn’t a top issue close fist subject.

      • As some of the commenters above, I struggle with the question of just how central the doctrine of the Trinity is to Christianity. It seems to me that the the concept of Trinity is helpful, and true, if it leads us away from imaging God as a solitary monad, a divine and singular potentate whose essence is his irresistible will and power, and toward imaging God as a divine community, the one and the many together in a relationship of love and a pattern of dance. The concept of Trinity is unhelpful, and untrue, if we adhere to the affirmation it involves as if it were an equation in math, or a mathematical proof, and make of it a barrier that separates us and over which we may endlessly argue and fight.

        I think we should start with the revelation of God in the Incarnation of Jesus, and work out from there. If some are unable to affirm the Trinity as a doctrine, but are able to affirm that Jesus is somehow mysteriously both God and in a relationship to God, that the heart of God is the intra-relational nature of the divine being along with divine relationship to all that is created, I think that should be sufficient for those of us who go further into a more traditional understanding of the Trinity. I think it’s time to stop letting this question separate us, it’s time to recognize that Christians may stand on both sides of this matter.

        • Maybe it would be helpful to remember that the doctrine of the Trinity is more like a poem than a mathematical formula; I’m afraid that traditional Christianity, and those who have reacted against it by affirming Jesus alone or some other variant, have treated it for far too long as if it, and its alternatives, were more like math than poetry.

          • Dana Ames says:

            Well said, Robert.

            D.

          • Dana,
            It seems to me that without a very high view of the institutional Church, it’s hard to have confidence in the doctrine of the Trinity; for many Protestants it’s problematic because the doctrine, especially as it relates to the Holy Spirit, is only found in germ form in the Scriptures, and depended for its development on the Church’s discernment later, during the time of the Fathers, once again especially as it relates to the Holy Spirit.

          • flatrocker says:

            Robert,
            And this is where we cue the Mormons and Jehovah Witness. At least they’re honest in their outright rejection of all things trinitarian. But does this still keep them in the camp?

          • I understand what you mean. Don’t forget that I eschewed the “institutional church” for 35 years, more than half my life. I came to a different awareness of what the Church is – the sacrament to the world – in spite of the failings of the people in it. One of the things I love about EO is that anything concordant with Orthodoxy that is found elsewhere is good and is not despised. One of the most painful things is that, no matter how much good will we have toward one another and how much so many other Christians love the Lord and follow him better than I ever shall, we are not part of the one Church together. I have wept over this of late.

            When I was investigating EO, I often heard variations on the comment that you don’t understand it fully until you’re in it. I also used to think, “How arrogant (and unbiblical) those Orthodox are!!!” In writing about it for folks here, I am experiencing some frustration around that, now from the “other side”… As F. Mathewes-Green wrote in her latest book, her husband always writes 2 sentences on the blackboard at the beginning of his class for inquirers: “What you will not learn in this class: Orthodoxy. What you will learn: About Orthodoxy.” A person learns Orthodoxy by praxis, by walking a spiritual path.

            That said, I simply wish people would try to get educated about, and try understand, EO on its own terms, which are different than those of the western churches. (Some of the same words may be used, but we understand meanings differently…) I’m not saying you’re uneducated! And I’m not interested in “being right” or getting anyone to convert, even though I’m sure I exhibit “convertitis”… I hope I’ve conveyed that I do respect where you’re coming from and the experience that has brought you there.

            If you want to read anything about Orthodoxy, Robert (or anyone else), I would suggest a steady diet of Fr Stephen Freeman’s blog posts, even if you don’t understand or agree with all he writes. And I would also suggest that you read through the online version of Fr Tom Hopko’s “The Orthodox Faith.” It’s free, and very user-friendly; you can read as many of the short sections as you have time for, and it’s easy to pick up where you left off. Go to oca dot org, click on “The Orthodox Faith” at the top, then “The Orthodox Faith” from the connecting list. Start with vol. 1. Again, not saying you have to agree with everything, or even anything. But it is the best introductory series in print for any general reader who can deal with some theological vocabulary.

            I also visited the web site of Fr Gregory Hallam, Antiochian Orthodox priest in England, and read a lot of what was there at the time; I found it to be extremely helpful, coming from a different angle. He has redone his web site and rearranged the Introduction to Orthodoxy. It can be found here: http://www.orthodoxresource.co.uk/index.html.
            The easiest thing is to navigate through the blue buttons on the left, rather than trying to read through the E-quip course also accessed through that page. He’s made it a bit more complicated than it used to be, but if you stick to the blue buttons and their colored subtopic buttons, you should be ok. (You’ll see what I mean when you get there.)

            Ok, enough for tonight, probably too much. You are all dear to me.

            Dana

  12. I have made several attempts to read books by Eugene Peterson because of all the adulation. I just can’t get thru them. He seems to be learned and devout and dedicated, but I eventually find him tedious and ultimately angering. I suspect it comes down to that at bottom he is Reformed in thinking and outlook. Not only that, his living and career have depended on churchgoers fulfilling what churchgoers are supposed to do to support that career. Have we really been specially created in order to spend our being worshipping God? Is God such a megalomaniac? I have responded positively to The Message along the way but only have read it in snippets. If I read it head to toe, I would not be surprised to find myself in strenuous disagreement in parts.

    This post today is not helping. I understand the historical circumstances that lay behind the development of the concept of The Trinity. I also understand that there was and is no general understanding and agreement as to just what exactly this concept actually means, and that official agreement was obtained at the point of the sword by the strongest representatives of the Prince of Peace. Tens of thousands of sincere followers of Jesus have been slaughtered in defense of what, in my view, amounts to a loyalty oath. Maybe hundreds of thousands

    Along with Stuart, yes I believe in God the Father, the Lord Jesus Messiah, and the Spirit of God, and this not because I learned it in catechism but because I know it from my own reality. It matches what Jesus taught. As to this thing called The Trinity, I do not find it in any way helpful to my spiritual learning and evolution, and I do not find it in the teaching of Jesus as some kind of dogma that must be adhered to in order to be a real Christian. I know that it is highly offensive to Jews and Muslims in particular, and doubt whether we demonstrate our true belief and love of God by further pissing off these cousins of the Book.

    Jesus the Jew said that the high point, the epitome, the capsule nutshell of the Bible begins Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is ONE God. He didn’t say anything about God spending his days dancing with himSelf and himSelf while we stand around keeping time clapping and cheering Him on. If it helps you to understand God better to think of him as three persons, I don’t mind. It is also helpful in understanding to think of God as seven fold Spirit in nature, and in another guise as seven billion persons. That doesn’t begin to exhaust the possibilities because they are inexhaustable.

    The great move of God’s Spirit today as I see it is in the widespread revelation that we are intended to become One with God here on Earth in this lifetime as best we are able. Godlike. Transformed. One with our Father as Jesus showed the Way and said Follow me. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but whereas this basic teaching was confined to just a few these past two thousand years, I believe it is being spread a thousandfold today. I believe it is what Jesus found of utmost importance, and many, maybe most, of the New Testament writers if you read between the doctrine. This could even be part of the return of Jesus if in fact that is waiting in the wings.

    So if you find the concept of The Trinity to be uppermost in your understanding of God, Peace be unto you. I’ll split my bread and wine with you but I won’t turn aside from my quest for Oneness for you or anyone else. An intellectual understanding is probably better than total ignorance, but it’s only going to take you so far. Jesus wants to take you the rest of the Way.

    • But Charles, “…there is only the dance.”

      I think, Charles, this may be one of those instances when your oft repeated objection to binary thinking, either/or thinking, can be applied, and mutivalent, both/and thinking, may take its place: God is both One and Three, not either One or Three.

      • Yes, Robert, your approach works. It is not the approach taken in The Creeds, which are intoned weekly to separate us from the heretics, the unbelievers, the laggards, the spiritual scumbags. Does God check this off in the Book of Life weekly? It is not the approach taken by prayers offered to O Trinitarian God with a glaring look around for any dissenters. It served its purpose thru the years but of late, not sure how long, maybe twenty-five years, maybe the generation now most in power, there is an emphasis on Trinitarianism as orthodox doctrine of the highest order and is used as a shibboleth. I find myself a bit short of patience these days. God is both One and Three. He is also Seven and Twelve and Infinite. Ultimately He is One, and knowable as such. Your mileage may vary, as may that of others. Oh, those rotten Unitarians!

        • I don’t know about what they do in your church, but in mine, there is no hateful eye glaring at dissenters when we recite the Apostolic Creed every Sunday; we keep our eyes fixed firmly on the cross at the head of the altar. We recite the Creed because it reminds us of who we are, and where we’ve come from, and where we’re going; we recite this poem because it is our love letter to Jesus, who in his omnipotence and love meets us in Word and Sacrament.

    • And Charles, what Jews, and even more so Muslims find far more offensive than the doctrine of the Trinity is the central doctrine of Christianity, the Incarnation, because it affirms that a man should be worshiped as God.

      • The central doctrine of Christianity and the central doctrine of Jesus don’t always match up so well. Your two doctrines are really just two sides of the same coin. Jesus didn’t require that we worship him as God, he asked us to follow him as he followed God the Father. I’ve never really believed that Jesus started frothing at the mouth over the Arians or the Monophysites or even my own imperfect understanding. I think he is a lot more concerned whether we are loving God with our whole being and looking out for our neighbor, something that Jews and Muslims and who knows what might well pull off a lot better than me.

        • I don’t imagine Jesus frothing at the mouth over anyone. But, if the Gospels are to be trusted (along with the rest of the NT), he is worthy of worship, and it is appropriate to call him “God”. See what Thomas did and said, according to the NT, when he finally encountered the risen Jesus: “My Lord and my God!”; see how, according to the Scriptures, one of the ten lepers healed by Jesus, instead of going to the Temple, went back to Jesus, fell on his face before him in worship, and gave him thanks for the healing. You don’t need to believe in the historicity of either of these stories, or the many other texts that witness to the same thing they do, to acknowledge that the early Church that wrote them thought of Jesus as one worthy of the honors given to God from the very beginning.

          None of what I’ve said denies the importance of loving our neighbors as ourselves.

        • Eckhart Trolle says:

          The Trinity idea certainly looks as though the Christians were making their theology up as they went along. The notion that Jesus could ever have taught such an excrescence is laughable, and it took two church councils to identify all three members (as we know them today)! The aspects which most offends Jews and Muslims is that it seems to violate the principle of monotheism.

          • From the beginning of the Church, from the time soon after Jesus’ crucifixion and death, the Christian community claimed that it had encountered the resurrected Jesus, and it attributed to him the worship and honors reserved for God. The language for the full blown doctrine of the Incarnation did not yet exist, but it was the earliest experience of the Church saying what it could say about the living Jesus and his Lordship with the words available to it, saying it in the traditions that were to subsequently form the New Testament witness, that led directly to the developed language of the later Christology and pneumatology of the Church. You say that Jesus could never have thought it; how then were his followers thinking it soon after his death, when they were worshiping him and attributing the prerogatives of God to him, though they lacked the later language of the Councils?

          • Eckhart Trolle says:

            We have no way of knowing what his followers were thinking “soon after his death,” the NT sources are from decades later. Furthermore they were selected, and modified, by a Hellenized church run by diaspora converts. Sure, some of the *language* is older (like “Holy Spirit”), but carried meanings foreign to Christianity.

          • The authentic letters of Paul were written within a couple of decades of Jesus’ death, and in them we hear the same sort of language attributing divine prerogatives to Jesus that we get from the Gospels. Though he was exposed to Hellenic ideas and education, Paul/Saul was a Jew through and through. Yet he, as a Jew, could attribute the same divine status to Jesus that the Gospels, which were written later, attributed to him. If Paul, who was of the same generation as Jesus, and was a Jew like Jesus, could ascribe the status of divinity to Jesus, then there is no reason why Jews of Jesus’ time, including Jesus, couldn’t think and speak in ways that attributed the prerogatives of God to a human being as well

            In addition, if the Gospels are that unreliable for telling us what the earliest Christian community was thinking about the nature of Jesus, neither can they convey his teaching reliably, as Charles thinks they can.

          • The last point of my comment immediately above is really not meant for you, as I’m sure you would readily agree to it, but for those like Charles, who would pit the teachings of Jesus, which are thought by them to be authentic, against a high Christology , which they take to be fallacious and non-essential to Christianity. Since both are witnessed to in the same Gospels, how is it possible to accept the one as authentic, and reject the other as inauthentic. The witness of the Gospels stand or falls together; if the teachings about Jesus in the Gospels are erroneous and inauthentic, then there is no reason to trust what the Gospels convey regarding the teachings of Jesus.

            But regarding your point, E. T.: If Hellenization was required to make first century Palestinian Jews capable of thinking of a human being as the equal of God, and even if Saul/Paul was such a Jew, what makes you think that the Apostles, and Jesus himself, were not sufficiently Hellenized to be able to make the leap to that concept? Was Palestine during Jesus’ time hermetically sealed off from outside religious influence? I don’t believe that this is what the historical record says; just the opposite, the Jewish world had been deeply influence by Greek thought by the time of Jesus. And how much exposure to a new concept does it take for an intelligent man to incorporate it into his thinking, if he recognizes truth in it, and if he thinks it applies to the things he is thinking and talking about?

            There is no reason to believe that the Apostles, and Jesus, would not have been sufficiently Hellenized, sufficiently exposed to the thought world of Greek and Roman religion, to have the capacity to think of a man as equal to God, and to think that it was true regarding Jesus himself.

  13. Jesus said that he and the Father were One. He didn’t say that he was God. There is a difference, a big difference. Just saying that he and the Father were One was enough to enrage people to the point of trying to kill him, nevermind claiming to be God, tho the two were confused in peoples’ minds, then as now. Jesus prayed that WE might be One with him and the Father, which is enough to enrage some folks today if taken seriously.