Now, I am by confession a Trinitarian, but I recognize that not every Disciple is a Trinitarian. Indeed, not everyone in the congregation I pastor would affirm the doctrine, so even though I’ll lift up the Trinity on Sunday, I will do so with a degree of circumspection.
While the Trinity is a defining doctrine, my guess is that most Christians have little understanding what it means. In fact, my guess is that many folks are tri-theists, at least in their practice. That is, they end up with three Gods. That may be as heterodox as unitarianism in Christian circles, but in practice we tend toward those two poles. But if we struggle with the doctrine of Trinity, it remains a stumbling block in our conversations with our monotheist relatives in the Jewish and Islamic communities. They hear us claim to be monotheists, but they have real doubts.
My thoughts on the Trinity in light of these interfaith conversations have been piqued by my reading of Miroslav Volf’s new book – Allah: A Christian Response (Harper One, 2011). I’ll be writing a full review when I finish the book, but the important point that Volf makes here is that normative Christianity denies about God what the Muslims deny. Normative Christianity affirms that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but God is one and that is foundational. What is important here is that the God Christians worship is the same as the God whom the Muslims worship. If not, especially if Christians affirm the Trinity as part of our understanding of God (recognizing that not all Christians see themselves as Trinitarians), then can we say that we worship the same God as the Jews?
So, however we understand the Trinity, can we with our Jewish and Muslim friends affirm what they affirm – God is One – and deny what they deny – that there is a God other than God? With this question posed – I will post later on ways in which we might envision the Trinity without crossing over into tri-theism, which ultimately is polytheism.