I think it doesn't help that the conversation here is taboo in most mainstream churches. There is always the undercurrent that, if a person doesn't come to the same conclusion as others, that person is no longer welcome. It's the kind of thing that puts a damper on honest and searching conversation, even if we ultimately agree. Because the taboo puts a damper on honest and searching conversation, the taboo works as an obstacle to understanding.
I mentioned in the earlier discussion:
While the doctrine of the Trinity is meant to clarify things, create unity, and reduce confusion, I don't think it has done any of those things.And to be clear, though it has some points to recommend it as the centuries can attest, it hasn't fully succeeded any of those things, which is why it keeps being a matter of conversation amongst the churches of different denominations (or a reason why some churches won't recognize the validity of other churches, or do not have unity with other churches). It's important that I make my reasons clear from the beginning: the doctrine of the Trinity may have served well to refute the teachings of the Arians back many centuries ago. It was meant to clarify, create unity, and reduce confusion. In the long run, has it done that, or do we have more ground to cover? If it has not succeeded in those objectives, then there is probably room for us to understand better and explain better. That is the hope of this conversation.
I'd like to expand briefly on those specific points, since they are my reason for wanting to have this conversation, and believing that the conversation can productively continue:
- Clarity: The doctrine of the Trinity is meant to clarify things. But the number of things that become less clear may rival the number of things that were addressed: Three "persons" -- How convincing are the arguments for unity against the charge of tritheism? And granted the translation issues and the philosophical subtleties of the conversation, how convinced are we that it clarified everything? (Do we prefer to say 'hypostases'? How much does that clarify for the average churchgoer?) What's the origin of the Holy Spirit? Or for the big picture: If nobody in the early church taught it, are we warranted in requiring uniform answers to those questions?
- Unity: The doctrine of the Trinity is meant to create unity in the church. But doctrine of the Trinity and the related doctrine of the person of Christ have divided a number of groups who cannot in good faith embrace the majority positions. The ancient Coptic church of Egypt is among those holding a variant position. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox are divided by a related question. Which brings me straight to:
- Reducing Confusion: The doctrine of the Trinity is meant to reduce confusion. It may have reduced confusion about Arianism -- but different questions and challenges keep arising, and it's not enough to answer Arianism. I think the doctrine of the Trinity has introduced confusion about specific things. For example, I read a theologian (Moltmann) -- someone who had a good reputation -- explaining how the "second person of the Trinity" became the Word of God -- and it sounded as if he meant that the Word of God was not the inherent nature. It would seem more Scriptural to say that the Word of God is regarded as the second person of the Trinity -- or is by nature the second hypostasis of the One God, or some other construction like that.
I'd be glad to learn more.
Take care & God bless