Thursday, June 12, 2014

Trinity of Persons in Fellowship

With Sunday being Trinity Sunday, I am exploring the doctrine of the Trinity.  I am an ordained minister in a non-creedal denomination.  Our founders decided to not make the Trinity an issue over which to divide. Thus, Barton Stone was by all intents of Arian persuasion.  Alexander Campbell accepted the idea of the Trinity, but chose not to use the term since he wanted to limit himself theologically to biblical terms.  I state this as way of preface to my own explorations.

I affirm the doctrine of the Trinity as being the traditional way of describing the nature of God.  There have been, down through history, differing ways of expressing the Trinity, though the Matthean Confession is the accepted formula.  The view that makes the most sense to me is the social Trinity, especially as described and defined by German theologian Jurgen Moltmann.  I quoted him in an earlier post on Tuesday, and want to bring in another quote from a different book.

Moltmann speaks of an "Open Trinity" in his book Trinity and the Kingdom. Of this Open Trinity, he speaks of the manner in which the three persons of the Trinity are united.

If the three divine subjects are co-active in this history, as we have shown  they are, then the unity of the Trinity cannot be a monadic unity.  The unity of the divine tri-unity lies in the union of the Father, the Son and the Spirit, not in the identity of a single subject.  That is quite clear from the Gospel of John.  Jesus says according  to John 10:30:  "I and the Father are one" (en).  He does not say "I and the Father are one and the same" (eis).  The unity of Jesus the Son with the Father is a unity which preserves their separate character, indeed actually conditions it.  Moreover it is not a closed unity; it is an open union.  That is why we can read in the High Priestly prayer (John 17.21): "that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us . . .".  The Fellowship fo the disciples with one another has to resemble the union of the Son with the Father.  But not only does it have to resemble that trinitarian union; in addition it has to be a union within this union.  It is a fellowship with God and beyond that, a fellowship in God.   But that presupposes that the triunity is open in such a way that the whole creation can be united with it can be one within it. The union of the divine Trinity is open the for the uniting of the whole creation with itself and in itself.  So the unity of the Trinity is not merely a theological term; at heart it is a soteriological one as well.  [Jurgen Moltmann  The Trinity and the Kingdom, pp. 95-96]  
In this passage Moltmann, speaks of the unity of divine subjects to be found in fellowship -- koinonia.  That is, the Trinity is a community of subjects, but not only that, following on John's understanding of unity between Father and Son, we find our unity as church in this unity.  But can't we go even further to understand the unity of creation itself to be found within this fellowship?  Moltmann advocates what some refer to as panentheism.  That is, God is present in all things, and all things are present in God.  Pushing further, he speaks of our existence within this fellowship in soteriological terms -- that is, in terms of salvation or wholeness.  Moltmann doesn't refer here to 2 Corinthians 5, but it would seem to fit Paul's vision of all things being reconciled to God in Christ.  

I want to leave the conversation here -- but want to think further of how this vision of the Trinity might help us understand the sharing of live and leadership across generational lines.  More on that tomorrow.

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