Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fine-tuning the doctrine of the Trinity?

I waited until now, after Lent was over, to discuss the controversial parts of my submission to the recent 2008 Trinity Blogging Summit. Emotions can run high around questions of dogma, and a few of the things I said were not conventional.

My general view of the Trinity on a charitable day is that it is close enough for government work: it does the job of explaining how Father, Son, and Spirit can be distinct but still One God. On an uncharitable day, I'll still acknowledge that it is better and closer to the truth than the alternatives that have been put forward by, say, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, or Oneness Pentecostals, to mention some of the better known alternative views there. Keep in mind that I do not write from the "free church" rejection of tradition but from within the tradition, belonging (with no apology) to the kind of church that recites one or the other of the historic creeds each time we worship. So my aim in discussing the Trinity is to determine what it would take to fine-tune the existing view for accuracy based on views that are deliberately native to Scripture. Here are the specific challenges I set out:
  • Seeking to know "God in Himself" may be misguided. Do we know anything definitive about God in Himself? Did God choose to be known in that way or remain that way?
  • Speaking of "God in Himself", do we actually know whether the Son and the Spirit, apart from creation, were meaningfully distinct from the Father?
  • The phrase "God in three persons" has at least the potential to be misleading, even given the changes in language and meaning over time. To what extent is it possible to complete the phrase "God in three ______" (insert noun) without obscuring the unity of God or obscuring the origins of Son and Spirit from the Father or obscuring the differences between Father, Son, and Spirit? To be sure, additional explanations have been added and the phrase does not stand alone. But have the additional explanations been adequate? If not, then filling in that blank is not a helpful move and may be an unhelpful move.
  • When we call the Holy Spirit a "person" (even granted the shifts in the meaning of words over the different times and languages involved), does considering the Spirit as Person prevent us from considering the Spirit as Spirit? Is Spirit in a different category than Person, so that a Spirit belongs to a Person (in the more modern sense at this point) and is rightly known as the Spirit of that Person? When we consider the Holy Spirit as Person do we lose sight of the Spirit as the Spirit of God?
  • I consider it likely that the Son (the Word of God, the Christ) is an intermediary not only in his role but also in his essential nature.

So with all those points of tension, I would not have been surprised to have been asked to discuss some of those points in more detail by people who see it differently.

24 comments:

japhy said...

When we call the Holy Spirit a "person" ... does considering the Spirit as Person prevent us from considering the Spirit as Spirit?

The difficulty of using the word "person" is simply because we implicitly think of a human person, of which a material body is a component. The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, and as such, is spirit (as is the Father). The only Person of the Most Holy Trinity who has a material body (as well) is the Son, but he is still a Divine Person (and not a human person, because he is only one Person, albeit with two natures).

When we consider the Holy Spirit as Person do we lose sight of the Spirit as the Spirit of God?

Only if we also lose sight of the Son of God as the Son when we consider him to be a Person. What I mean is, each of the Persons of the Trinity, by definition, exists in relation to the other Persons: there is no "Son" without a "Father", there is no "Father" without a "Son", and there is no Spirit (which has been described as the manifestation of the love -- which God is -- between the Father and the Son) without both the Father and the Son.

Weekend Fisher said...

See, and here we've gotten straight into teachings that were speculative. How do we *know* that the Spirit is the manifestation of the love between the Father and the Son? For as often as that has been repeated, that's not how the Spirit is described in Scripture. It wasn't the earliest of doctrines either, and I'm not sure that it has sound reasoning behind it.

I think we do lose sight of what it means to be the Spirit of God: "For who among men has known the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." (I Cor 2:11). Paul makes an analogy that the Holy Spirit is to God as our spirits are to us. If we take what Paul says to mean something about the Holy Spirit -- and he was trying to teach just that -- then the "distinct person" does not seem to be what Paul is trying to say. Instead, the fact that the Holy Spirit *is* the spirit of God within us, that is how we know the mind of God by receiving the Spirit of God. That's the crux of Paul's argument in Chapter 2; he spends that chapter developing the implications of that idea and how it works for our wisdom and salvation and our knowing the mind of God.

... The Holy Spirit is to God as our own spirit within us is to ourselves? If that is an alien thought, that is what I mean when I say we lose sight of what it means for the Holy Spirit to be Spirit rather than Person.

You're a coder, right? Please consider this whole post to have "try" brackets around it, and the comments are where I'm trying to catch exceptions. :)

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

japhy said...

NOW you're speakin' my language! ;)

japhy said...

As for the Holy Spirit being love, I would hazard a guess that the identification of that comes at least partially from 2 Timothy 1: "God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control ... [so] guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us." (vv. 7, 14)

I will also admit that the problem for Trinitarian Christianity is that Scripture usually uses the word "God" when we would say "God the Father", and it uses "the Son of God" when we would say "God the Son".

Human beings are trinitarian in nature, too, though, as Paul says -- "body, soul, and spirit" (1 Thess 5:23) -- so perhaps we (that is, later Christians) didn't make this whole "God is a Trinity" thing up!

So when "the Spirit of God" (or "the Spirit of Christ") is found in Scripture, perhaps it really does mean that Person of God which is the Spirit.

One thing that helps for me is that there are places in Scripture that identify Christ as "identical" to God (such as John 1 and 1 John 4 and Revelation), and there are verses (uncontested as genuinely Paul) that speak of "the Spirit of Christ" (Rom 8:9, Gal 4:6, Phil 1:19, 1 Peter 1:11, cf. Heb 9:14) -- instead of "the Spirit of God". There's also 1 Cor 15:45 which identifies Jesus, "the last Adam" as "a life-giving Spirit"; 2 Cor 3:17-18 wherein Paul refers to the Lord as the Spirit.

There are also verses which "make more sense" when read in a trinitarian manner, such as: "through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father" (Eph 2:18), "take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph 6:17)

Perhaps I should take the opposite approach, and read Scripture and interpret "the holy spirit" just to be a descriptive name for "God" (that is, God is the holy spirit, contrasted with all the unholy spirits), and see if it makes sense that way...?

P.S. an after-thought said...

Does it make any difference when thinking about this that the Hebrews supposedly thought of a human as ONE but the Greeks thought of a human as body and soul or body and soul and spirit? Do we change how we read these verses when we think of that?

japhy said...

PS - that is a good point, because there are some threads of Greek thought (such as 1 Thess 5:23) in Paul's writing. From a "what is Christianity supposed to be?" perspective, this lends credence to the belief that Christianity is not just "Judaism++" (to use a programmer's idiom) but rather something bigger. The Hellenization of Christianity, rather than a corruption and deviation from God's plan, could have been necessary to wrest Jewish Christians out of any lingering erroneous mindset ("Is there an afterlife?" "Is all suffering bad?" "Is a long life with wealth and many children the supreme good?" etc.). It could have been what was necessary to make Christianity indeed be a universal religion and not just a religion of a nation.

There are people who think Christianity should simply be 1st-century Judaism with a belief in Jesus as the Messiah tacked on, and that everything that "reeks of Greeks" (or worse, Romans!) should be dispensed of.

But now I'm off-topic.

japhy said...

Argh, I press "Submit" too fast.

PS - that perspective you mentioned also helps understand trinitarian thought: a human is ONE even though he is also body and soul (or body, soul, and spirit).

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SeekWisdom said...

Weekend Fisher writes:

"I think we do lose sight of what it means to be the Spirit of God: "For who among men has known the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." (I Cor 2:11). Paul makes an analogy that the Holy Spirit is to God as our spirits are to us. If we take what Paul says to mean something about the Holy Spirit -- and he was trying to teach just that -- then the "distinct person" does not seem to be what Paul is trying to say. Instead, the fact that the Holy Spirit *is* the spirit of God within us, that is how we know the mind of God by receiving the Spirit of God."

Ok, for me what Paul is saying sounds like what therapists call the "observing ego." A part of us that is self-reflexive. That observes, takes note of our behavior or can watch our thoughts. (and this grows within us... not everyone has it, children grow into this capacity.) Now, it is very interesting that this "observer" part of us is exactly the part of ourselves that meditative traditions try to help us focus on/identify with, when we sit calmly and do no get pulled into our own thoughts, but remain at "peace" - at "rest." The observing ego is, in effect, distinct from our conscience, a part of us that "judges." (And isn't the Father the Judge?)

As I see it you are asking us to do "thought experiments," to see if there is another way to express the Trinitarian Mystery. And I completely agree with you that the result must spring from scripture. And not only that, I think it must accord with our own experience, particularly as you have noted this place in Paul, where he specifically asks us to do that. To buttress that, I also recall reading an Orthodox writer, who mentioned the importance of personally experiencing the truths of the Creed (the Faith).

We are also asked to "put on the mind of Christ," "to be transformed by the renewal of our minds." And this suggests to me that there is a process, within our own mind/self whereby the truths of the Trinity gradually come to fruition, that this fruit is the Christ Mind (if you will). And certainly I can see that in my own life as gradually I begin to "see" or "understand" what previously may only have been words or phrases.

You mention "God in three ___" and that is a very intriguing way of phrasing a question. I've been playing around with your idea of "we name them Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." God's self-revelation in terms of "Yahweh" - the "name." And you can so easily fit the New Testament understanding of three "names" within "Yahweh" - one meaning of which can be "I will be who I will be."

In no way do I think we are going to totally understand this. And I agree with your contention that we cannot come to know God Self, but only God With Us.

These thoughts are a stab at some of what you've written. I can offer "stabs." And I think you are amazing at analysis.

I suspect I'll have further thoughts. And I look forward to feedback. This is a huge project! (Blessed be God!)

A pleasure to take part in this!

SeekWisdom said...

Weekend Fisher asks:

"Speaking of "God in Himself", do we actually know whether the Son and the Spirit, apart from creation, were meaningfully distinct from the Father?"

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." (next comes creation) "All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being."

To me, that answers the question. It is definitive. It gives us the God/Word relationship: the Word was with God." Now, could the "with" be the Spirit? Then you have "Word With God." As Yahweh. And then the idea of Spirit of Christ, Spirit of God makes sense.

Again, a stab in the darkness. But for me what one Jesuit I've read has called the "We Community" of the Trinity is primary. I see "relationship" as primary to everything. I see this as a therapist. I believe we see this in all of creation. Unity can only be there because of relationship. And I honestly think that Relationship is so primary to God Self that creation spills over as an effulgence of God's very being. Not saying that God had to create. But that the longing of Father <-> Son.... the "With"ness" of the Spirit perhaps, the desire to Speak forth led to creation and then to revelation.

Ok. Those last thoughts go way beyond your question. But, for me, I simply see Trinity as basic. So that when we read the Old Testament, the God of revelation, for us Christians, cannot be less than TriUne.

Your post can only be considered in tiny bites.

I applaud your project! I envision the Trinity doing the same!!!

japhy said...

God -- identified as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- exists without and before us: His revelation of Himself as such is not our invention; rather, we invent identities for Him when we name Him in relation to us, rather than to Himself.

When we call God "Creator", we speak from the perspective of the created.

When we call God "Redeemer", we speak from the perspective of the redeemed.

When we call God "Sanctifier", we speak from the perspective of the sanctified.

When we call God "Father", though, we are using a term which Jesus himself used, a term which, rightfully, only Jesus could use, as the only-begotten Son of God. Jesus invites us to use this "title" for God because of our adoption into God's family through Jesus Christ. It is this "spirit of adoption" (or "sonship") which is the "spirit of His Son" (Rom 8:15, Gal 4:6). Thus, although we are referring to God as "Father" from our own perspective, we are injected into the perspective of eternity, where the Son always knew the Father as father.

Weekend Fisher said...

Wow, lots of interesting stuff in the comments here. I'll try to take them in turn but it's my lunch break and I did eat, so let's see how fast I can type.

I'll break down the replies by who left the comment, in hopes that helps everyone find the part where I was addressing what they said.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Japhy

Re #4 "a spirit of power and love and self-control" ... I mean, that could as easily have led to the Spirit being called the power of God (which it is some places) or the "self-control of God" (?!) which seems more confusing that inspiring. But as far as the Spirit's essence being the bond of love between Father and Son, as far as I can tell someone made up that and it sounded inspiring so it got passed along.

Your comment on humans being Trinitarian in nature: I know people who argue it but they're not in this thread so I'll just ask you: How far do you care to take that? I mean, if we're Trinitarian in the same sense that God is, then is God the Father analogous to Jeff, with the Holy Spirit analogous to the Spirit of Jeff and the Word of God analogous to the Word of Jeff? I'm not trying to be silly I'm just typing fast and trying to figure out the mapping. I mean, are you One Jeff in Three Persons or is that not what you meant? If that's not the kind of thing you mean -- I mean, would Christians be having Trinitarian arguments if we meant God were Trinitarian in a similar way to humans? There's no debate about tri-Jeffism or tri-Anneism, but there is about tri-theism.

Re later comments to PS about "Judaism++" (loved that) I think Christianity is definitely more than that, in that all that was true in all religions must belong to God's truth. (I also liked the "reeks of Greeks", you were on a roll.) Meanwhile, my problem with the Greeks is not that they weren't Hebrew, but that I think a couple of things got lost in translation/culture shift that shouldn't have been.

--- and actually I'm not even done with the replies to Jeff and my lunch break is all gone. I don't type *that* fast. I hope to be back this evening. :)

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

SeekWisdom said...

japhy said:

"we invent identities for Him [God]when we name Him in relation to us, rather than to Himself."

I don't think we're "inventing identities."

Think of Isaiah 61, 1st verse: "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me..." Now here we have the prophetic utterance. Which Christ (according to the New Testament) applies to himself. And whether you consider the testimony of Isaiah or the special evidence of Trinity when Christ applies this to himself, in neither case do you have "us" inventing "identities." You have a revelation of the Trinity. I'm not sure the word "identities" works well in any case.

In my view we are both immersed in the Divine Life of the Trinity (through our Baptism and ongoing graces or some call them energies), but we are also Temples of the Trinity (within us). So, in a way we cannot understand we are swept up in this Divine Life both within and without.

I think this thread could go on for a very, very long time.

Weekend Fisher said...

Jeff -

Back again, and where I left off I was going way too fast, making hasty comments without a care for anything but speed in a deluded hope of responding to everyone on my lunch break, and ... the next topic up was the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. I'll take it by inches here ...

Christianity should not be limited to what had been known by Jews before Jesus came; it would deny his incarnation and revelation.

Jesus should not be viewed through the lens of those Jews who thought he was deplorable and worthy of death; in light of the resurrection that view was shown simply wrong, and Jesus should be viewed in light of the resurrection which, among other things, vindicated him as Messiah and his person and work as from God.

The idea of Messiah should not be limited to those things anti-Christian Jews are willing to concede to a messiah, but should take their cue from what Jesus taught about himself and how his apostles -- sent out to be his witnesses -- proclaimed him.

However, Jesus often spoke in Jewish terms, referenced existing Jewish thought; the apostles likewise are steeped in Jewish thought being themselves Jews who were followers of the Messiah rather than enemies of the Messiah. Christianity demands a Jewish context, which it does not find and leave unchanged but is transformed by Christ.

When I say that the truth of God must include all that was ever true in any religion, I do not mean to imply that (say) ancient Greek or Roman thought about the things of God was on a par with Jewish thought; it wasn't. Everyone remember Zeus and Apollo and Hera and Mars and Aphrodite and Artemis?

Other ancient cultures simply did not have the same insight into God as Judaism, so that we cannot rightly see Judaism as merely one among many ancient religions, but as the first of the nations called to know God through his Word. In this way, Judaism was "the true religion" of the ancient world even if in a tentative form -- or better, preparatory stage -- that was ethnically limited. Christianity is the same faith as true Judaism, is true Judaism gone global under the banner of the Messiah.

So I'd agree that the ancient Jewish thoughts needed to be broken out of their short-sightedness and the fact that they saw in a glass darkly; but I disagree that this change was best done by Hellenization, which has at least as much risk of going wrong as of going right. Instead this breaking-out has to be done by Christ and interpreted in terms of Christ.

Can I ramble or what?

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi PS

What you said about seeing body/soul/spirit within a person -- that sounds very much like what Paul was saying in I Corinthians 2. Is that what Paul is saying? And is that what we mean when we talk about the Trinity?

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi seekwisdom

I've wondered to what extent that self-reflective aspect figures into all this ... I'm nowhere close to getting that one solved. :)

Then you focus on one of the things that is at the core of the matter:

--------------------
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." (next comes creation) "All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being."
--------------------

If we take seriously the fact that Christ is the Word of God -- if we take that to be a statement about his very nature -- then is the Word ever outside God until he "speaks"? The early Christian literature makes quite a few references to the ancient Jewish thought of the Word of God as the creative power, and the Wisdom of God as inseparably bound to the Word of God to the point of being identical with the Word of God.

That's exactly what raises the question in my mind: before creation, are the Word and the Spirit distinct from God? Or is the act of creation what made room (literally) for there to be anything at all distinct from God? Are God's Word and God's Spirit the presence with which God fills his creation? So, before creation, are even His Word/Wisdom and His Spirit inside him? That was where my question was coming from in my paper to the Trinity Blogging Summit: Do we actually know whether, before creation (if we can even think or speak of that meaninfully), at that time whether the Word and the Spirit were meaningfully distinct from God? I have difficulty conceiving of the Word of God being in any way "outside" the Father before he "spoke" the first word of creation. Which is not the same thing as saying it's impossible.

"Inconceivable" ... I keep using that word ...

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

SeekWisdom said...

Weekend Fisher, I salute you!

Ok. Thinking about the Heart of the Matter. Or rather the Heart of God.

First of all, when we use metaphors of God, like "word" or "speech" or "heart," we must realize they are only metaphors. Images put into words. (And what we speak of as the Trinity is a "word" to describe the ONE God, manifested to us, by Jesus, as Trinity - a deeper, richer ONE God.)

As far as GodSelf goes, God is ONE. We are told that over and over by the Old Testament writers. And it took a looooong time for Israel to "get" that. Maybe not till the time of Jesus. (Then Jesus throws us this "curveball" - which we are addressing here, that the ONE God is beyond our imagining, greater by far, closer to us by far, more complex by far, mind-boggling by far! Is, was, and will be...a Glory that is TriUNE)

Though this comes as Christ's revelation to us, in GODSelf there is no changing. There is no time. "Word," whatever it means to us is only a God-Given metaphor in our human language, not something which begins or ends - EVER! (So, "Word" is something to meditate on, to be steeped in, to allow to sink into our very pores... through a lifetime... and beyond.)

So our understanding of God, of "Word With God," may change, but the ONE God does not change. "Word Within God" - is that God forever? And "Word With God" is that how we perceive/receive it?

God does not change. We do.

How do I know that? Combination of revelation and logic (philosophy): If we look across traditions, and I would include all traditions that have deep meditative roots, such as Vedanta (which long predates the others), Buddhism, and the mystical traditions within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, everything points at an experience of Oneness and Timelessness - within whatever heights or depths a human is capable of experiencing Holy Mystery. The reason I am looking across traditions to get at this is because I am convinced (within my own mind and via my reading of these traditions) that the Holy Spirit is active and alive in anyone who Seeks with his or her whole heart-mind-soul (your banner) and who has left us inspired accounts of this "contact" with Divine Life. And all traditions urge a Seeker to "be still" (and, for us, "know that I am God"). Whatever they call it, it is a call to meditation, to this "inner observer" .... this unifying part of our mind that seems capable of "touching" the Divine Life/The Ultimate Mystery, whatever name is put to that... even though some would dispense with a "Being" by that "Name."

To look further into this, one could read Christian monks who have gone to live in India and have delved deeply into the tradition of the Holy Men of India. I have read some of this. All of these traditions urge a Seeker to put into practice what they are reading about. To find the ultimate truths through Experience. In other words, you have to put the Teaching into Practice in order to really test the teaching and experience its fruits. And this is urged over and over and over in every longstanding deep spiritual tradition that I know of.

Example: Here is Bede Griffiths, an English Benedictine, who lived in India as a Sanyasi (Holy Hermit), "We have to realize... that any kind of external word, preaching, and teaching, is secondary to the inner reality, the inner self, the inner experience" (this is actually quoted from an article on the Holy Spirit). And Bede Griffiths is only saying what the tradition of Vedanta and Buddhism also teach.

Another Example: Here is Christ in John's Gospel (Jn 7:14-18): "About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. The Jews were astonished at it, saying, ‘How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?’ Then Jesus answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.’"

I feel like I've gone off the track.

Ok, I was talking about the ONEness of God. The Timelessness. The Immutability. There is no evidence from any recorded tradtions, I think, that God changes. Our understanding of God certainly changes. In every life, every person sincerely seeking, we come to a deeper and deeper understanding of God. And as we do that, we have to let go of the old, more childish (etc.) view of God. That has happened as well through human history.

So change happens for us. But not for God. Thus, God/Trinity - whatever that means... is eternal. We may view "Incarnation" as an Event, but for God, whatever is revealed to us isn't something new for God. I suppose it would be like having an idea in my mind. Whether I ever speak the idea or not, it's there. Obviously this is a poor analogy.

But I have to believe that we are led by God into Mystery. The Mystery does not change.

I think I have to leave it there.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Great questions, Anne!

I've posted some Orthodox answers on my own blog, linking to yours.

SeekWisdom said...

Weekend Fisher writes:

"before creation, are the Word and the Spirit distinct from God? Or is the act of creation what made room (literally) for there to be anything at all distinct from God? Are God's Word and God's Spirit the presence with which God fills his creation? So, before creation, are even His Word/Wisdom and His Spirit inside him?....

[and]

I have difficulty conceiving of the Word of God being in any way "outside" the Father before he "spoke" the first word of creation. Which is not the same thing as saying it's impossible."

My response:

"in Him we live and move and have our being"

So, why would creation have to be "outside" God(Trinity)? How can anything really be "outside God?"

Either way, yes, it's maybe logically "inconceivable" - but then we have these puny minds.

Maybe here's an example. We can envision things in our mind. And maybe for God "envisioning" is creation.

Again, making stabs here.

You're asking good questions. And obviously we were given minds for just that purpose, among others.

I think we need to be careful about "objectifying" and "localizing" God Trinity.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

"Outside of God" is a manner of speaking to indicate "not of the same substance/essence as God." Obviously, He is everywhere present and fills all things.

Adam Pastor said...

Greetings

On the subject of the trinity,
I recommend this video:
The Human Jesus

Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you to reconsider "The Trinity"

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Seeker

I know I'm asking a question that, according to orthodoxy, is supposed to have been settled: given that God is eternal, given that God's Word and God's Spiirt are as eternal as God, doesn't it follow that Trinity is eternal? So my question is not whether the Father, Son/Word/Wisdom, and Spirit are eternal, but whether the Son/Word/Wisdom, and Spirit are meaningfully distinct from the Father apart from the interactions with creation.

Again, that question was originally considered settled based on very much the grounds you suggest: God does not change, this is suggesting a change in God, therefore the answer must be no.

What I'm questioning is whether this suggests a change in God, and here's where the question arises: and bear in mind we're getting close to the limits of human language but if I say "before" creation (I know that there are those who contend "before" is meaningless in that context, but still most people know what I mean even if the language struggles to express it) -- "before" creation God was not actually a "Creator" in that nothing had been created; if he was "Creator" it was potential creator or planning-to-be-creator or whatever turn of phrase we care to give that. Now, did God change when creation began to exist? Everybody has said "no, he just acted" and I agree with that.

Meanwhile, there was something new on the block: something other than God. And because of that, for the first time God "related" to something else because for the first time there was something else.

Given that most of the language we use for God is in metaphor, still the metaphor-language is given precisely because we can understand the meaning of it where we couldn't understand the raw reality of God.

Take, for example, when Jesus says, "I am the door". Obviously metaphorical: he has no hinges or doorknob. Given that it's a metaphor, the literalness (is he wood?) is nonsense but the implications are true and are the point of the metaphor: we go through him to get to God.

Again, with Jesus as the "word" -- probably a metaphor, but the implications of it are true because that's what a metaphor does. So "word" is how God expresses himself, organizes his thoughts, communicates his thoughts, lets his mind and spirit be known, reveals his true self to those who cannot access it directly.

Notice how much of what is meant by "word" only applies when there is someone else to interact with? So again, is the "word" of God meaningfully distinct from God when there is no-one else to interact with?

Likewise Spirit, though on that one at least we're not unraveling analogies so much.

So I don't believe I'm suggesting a change in God, and in fact that's exactly what I'm wondering: does it really constitute a "change" in God to say he didn't interact with anything else before creation but that he did afterwards? That's the biggest difference, in my mind, between (say) the Christian concept of God and the Muslim concept of God: Christianity knows God to permeate the world with his word and his spirit, to indwell his people with his word and his spirit, so that if the word and spirit eternally inside God are also inside his people, his people are caught up in the eternal life of God and transformed into sons of God and daughters of God.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

SeekWisdom said...

I love you, Weekend Fisher!

I understand what we are doing here. We are not looking for a heresy, but we a looking into the Truths of our Faith.... doing thought experiments. I once had a professor, retired from teaching philosophy and religion, who taught a fascinating course on some early writers in the field of therapy (Freud, Jung, and some more modern writers) We discussed their writings as a philosopher would. He was a man who had known and been influenced Tillich (also big Kirkegaard fan!) and he had written a book called "The Faith to Doubt." He believed it was important for believing persons to question. That's what we're doing. So as lovely as it was to read the beautifully reasoned, well-rounded account of the Orthodox friend, who responded to you, we are not without access to the age old answers. Instead, we are seeking to have our eyes opened, just as Jesus opened the eyes of the blind man. To see better. To see with "new" eyes.

So... I'm with you here.

You write:

"Christianity knows God to permeate the world with his word and his spirit, to indwell his people with his word and his spirit, so that if the word and spirit eternally inside God are also inside his people, his people are caught up in the eternal life of God and transformed into sons of God and daughters of God."

I am mostly in agreement. We are discussing how God can both transcend us in every particular so that we are in the midst of The Divine (whether we like or not!) and can also indwell us, be the deepest and truest center of ourselves.

Where I differ with you is that I "understand" the "indwelling" as already TriUnity, even if we may distinguish 3 Revealed NAMES (Persons). Thus, for me, the indwelling is ONE indwelling Trinity.

I was thinking this morning about how modern physics tells us that, in effect, there is more "space" in us than there is matter. That the atoms and the quanta take up so little space... that if we could truly "see" ourselves we'd be nearly invisible. We could see "through" ourselves. And does that help us understand better how God can be both "within" and "without" or how the "kingdom of heaven" is in our midst?

Regarding your interesting question about the "relationship" between God and creation... the "name" Creator perhaps came into being with creation, just as the name "Son" perhaps came into being with Incarnation. But is that a change?

When I married, I acquired the name "wife" - but my essence did not change. When I had a child, I acquired the name "mother" but my essence, my person, did not change.

Probably that doesn't really answer your question.

What if God's Being is so totally "Relationship" - a concept that transcends ALL relationship, that there can be no "newness," no addition to that? Like there can be no addition to Truth. So that somehow, GodSelf is "Complete Relationship" - so complete as to include all potentiality in the OneNess, the UnitedNess?

We can't envision this. But here's a thought. Because for God there is no Time, then for God there is no event of Creation. No event of Incarnation. No event of Resurrection. Just one Glorification - which unites everything that we see as distinct.

I've answered your question to the best of my ability at the moment. But I have some important thoughts I will post separately soon, related to "Names" of God being the same as what came to be called "Persons" of God. Based on Ephrem and PseudoDionysius... I think we draw that conclusion... and also conclude that these Names are revealed to us as "ways" God uses to draw us into "communion" with GodSelf - as meditate on the Names and the Sacred Mysteries connected with the Names.