CH...thanks for your thoughtful posts, and sorry this is so late...i really hope to keep a conversation going with you over the years...i really appreciate your thoughtfulness and demeanor...see comments in 
I've been enjoying your Web site for the last few weeks so let me begin
with thanks for the inputs.
[thanks for the encouragement!]
I haven't a lot of time and I see from the im-
pressively extensive nature of your posted musings that you have made for your
self quite a full plate already.
[the plate seems to be getting bigger, but I am learning SO much in this process!]
I haven't any answers to the following but
think they are interesting and would like to pursue them ... so I'm sending
this to see how you react when you have time.
[my take on this is that the 'trinity' IS a biblical phenomena, but would be stated in a 'folk system':
Jesus is God; The Holy Spirit is God; The Father is God; There is only one God.
This IS the doctrine of the 'trinity' pure and simple. There are no biblical attempts to develop more precision than this....At some level, these statements AS REVEALED in the teachings of Jesus are PRE-EXPERIENCE and hence do NOT derive from Christian experience of the Trinity, nor from the later attempts to add precision to this formulation via the Greek categories (as you point out)...]
expression in terms of the 'persona' (something like dramatic faces or masks)
substance and essence metaphysics. Secondly, the doctrine emerges from controver-
sy i.e. practical faith, morals and church polity were in some way at stake
in addition to the need to exercise some control over rampant speculations,
some of which were TRULY bizarre but mostly were too facile formulations of
the mystery that managed to saw an arm or leg off the baby and toss it out
with the bathwater. The orientation was accordingly, to my understanding,
less of desire to 'explain' God (which isn't really in the cards) than to:
- preserve the mystery i.e. not let the fullness of revelation
be attenuated by the easy 'explanations' and theorizing that was
ubiquitous amongst both the clergy and laity. ( Compare this with
todays moribund theological life in so much of Christendom)
[I personally think you are correct here...if you look at the final creeds, you get the pairs of qualifiers (e.g "co-mingled, yet not confused" apprx) which simply RESTATES the ambiguity of the mystery in a series of pairs!--no new specificity appears that I can see...]
- preserve the potential for full Christian 'experience' by acknowledg
ment of the divine nature of the actions of the three persons of the
Godhead, despite the disparate character of the various manifestations
- preserve the unity i.e. as all being expressions of the one God.
All in all I think the fathers did a pretty outstanding job given the lasting
nature of the inters-subjective agreement that their work has managed to command
across time, circumstance and variations of place and temperament among Christ-
ians of widely varying persuasions on other matters.
[agreed...and we see the same phenomena in ALL the early church stuff --adjusting for the aberrant and political councils, of courser--ie. canon, the person of Christ...]
Yet there seems to be a growing problem with the formulation in the modern
world as both the subtlety and thrust of the old picture appears to be
increasingly inaccessible to many. Perhaps this can be laid to the door of
latter day intellectual laziness, increased willingness to question etc.
The weak link in the chain seems to me to be the Greek philosophy. In part-
icular the rather disembodied manner in which the Godhead and it's structure
is examined from the 'outside' so to speak, as if we were capable of such a
perspective. This inherently puts us in the place of trying to examine
God as if He were some other object i.e. a creation which is the only kind of
thing we humans are any good at grasping, if that.
[I agree, but I never considered the Greek thing to work even back then...the original formulation in Scripture is not "logically problematic" actually...one has to import some notions of persons, individual, essences to even get to a 'problem' with it...and if we don't allow those there (due to irrelevancy!), we don't have an articulated problem to solve!...]
At any rate I sense that somehow it may be time to try to do something about
this. Let me state immediately two things
- We, or at least I have no warrant for doing this out any sense
of either being equal to the task, or belief that a purely speculative
endeavor is either called for or would be welcome, by God or the
[God seems to be much more favorable disposed to 'new creation' thinking than is the Church--go for it!]
- There is no new data, i.e. no new revelation. However I believe that
revelation is grasped somewhat holistically (hence the intersubjective)
agreement often without articulated or articulatable details) and it
is the task of theology to give form where possible and appropriate
to what we received via the Spirit.
[this would open up quite a discussion on the purpose/methods of theology, but I am in basic agreement with this...]
There is however, I think, a need. I'm sure that you have been astounded and
horrified by the some of the really shabby theology and thinking that passes
for spiritual insight, especially, of course, amongst cults etc. Any perusal
of new age stuff quickly shows that the gnostic pleroma is very much with us.
The estrangement of even a goodly number of born again folks
from intelligibly relating to this is perhaps even more distressing and
of course the there is always the need to converse with Jews both converted
and otherwise for whom the Trinity is often a BIG sticking point.
Finally the terrible disunity situation amongst denominations etc. I think
the classical Trinitarian formula was a unifying idea for the church. Remember
it worked hard at being catholic (small c) for a long time. The Protestant
'Tower of Babel' situation seems to me to stem largely from trying to get
too much TRUTH into the head and not seeing enough of God at work in the
guy next to you that you don't happen to agree with.
[I tend to agree with you--the non persecuted Church is like Israel after the Conquest...they got lazy, fat, and forgot the urgency and immediacy of God's claim on their lives...the Western church approximates more a scholastic debate over multiplied metaphysical entities...]
I know that you are
something of an inerrantist, (For scrupulously honest reasons as far as I can
see, for which I give thanks). I'm not, not because I have any particular
list of 'contradictions' to peddle, but because I've never been able to get
the feeling from the content and tenor of scripture that it's all that
important or that inerrancy is materially relevant to what inspiration (in
which I do believe, in and out of the bible) is all about.
[one personal note here...
1. I used to believe in inerrancy for doctrinal reasons, and was afraid to look at the passages which seemed to be in error...
2. I then lost the 'doctrinal basis' for it...(or at least found a way 'around it' so to speak) and then started researching the 'problems' (in the name of my new found integrity)
3. only to find...each problem I studied ended up disappearing...in other words the phenomena of scripture which I originally feared to face, became case after case of supporting data FOR inerrancy...
4. so I end up an irerranctist, based upon 'empirical' study of the 'errors"...i have gained the utmost confidence in the Book and have developed an INCREDIBLE respect for its authors-under-inspiration...
A strange sorta circle...end of note]
However I know
that it has become for many a very big anxiety structure. I doubt the ultimate
doctrinal outcome will be known in our lifetime, but I hope that when it is
it will prove to have been worth it because I suspect that the spiritual
'body count' is likely to be high. I think turning on the KENOSIS_ME_HARDER
switch here might work wonders.
[you are probably right...my experience is that both sides are often talking past one another, and that too little is done in love...]
My interest in this project is not however primarily one of combating heresy
but of attempting to find a communicable formulation which is more
up to date philosophically and conceptually and, if possible, freer of
extra-biblical metaphysical constructs. (not asking for much huh?)
[I have been developing substantial doubt as to how precision we can get on some of these big ones: trinity, hypostatix, inspiration, the Holy Spirit in the world)]
Some (random) thoughts on where to start?
The trinity isn't known or understood, it is experienced.
[I don't make as much of a distinction in these areas as I used to. For example, when I read a 'Trinitarian-type passage in the NT, I seem to experience it...albeit differently than that say in prayer. In other words, PERCEPTION is a type of experience. And I am no so sure that understanding (especially as mediated through memory!) is not 'experienced' as well...i am still thinking on this, though...]
If so the
issue isn't so much one explanation as in triggering recognition. This
is a kind of 'personality' providence idea, we see that God was in action
in our lives even before we knew Him. So one task is to 'bring out' the
forms of God's action within and upon us. Our nature provides the diversity
which if God is to redeem and share in our life demands an equivalently
complex but unified structure in God. This strikes at the unity of reality
which seems to be a much understudied implication of monotheism altogether.
Implicit recognition. Personal 'structure' (need a better term) within
God is not directly visible.
[I personally think that God's personhood IS experienced--indeed is imprinted somehow on our very subconscious substrates...we interpret all of reality as in a personal context...
[but I am not sure of your meaning here... I cannot tell if you are referring to the 'structure of personality ITSELF' or of 'structure of tri-personality'... I think your next comment argues for the latter...
[one other item here...in MY prayer experience, I sometimes 'sense' the context of tri-personality. When I am before the Father, asking Him to intervene in history to bring honor to the Son of His love, I am often 'aware' of Both in my 'intentional space'. The Spirit, as the backdrop/Urgrund to MY consciousness, doesn't seem to be 'in front of me' in those contexts. However, my 'experiences of the Spirit' in my life are generally the experience of only One of the Persons of the Godhead--the Spirit's comfort in moments of loneliness or the backwash of spiritual compromise. (Although, I do experience the 'fellowship' of the Spirit in those situations where He has confronted me with some beauty or excellence of Christ--in those cases, there is a sense of two: the Spirit 'with me' intending the marvelous person of the Son. There is the experience of the unity of those Two, as distinctly different than I, but alike among themselves. I need to reflect some more on experiences of the Father and the Spirit together--I cannot remember any of those off-hand. (And, I am mindful of the Christ-centric nature of the Spirit's sojourn--John 16).
Rather a kind of quantum complementarity
is involved we see only a limited amount of the reality from any perspec-
tive, but the unity is grasped implicitly. i.e God in his dealings with
us is dealing with us as a whole but what we can experience at any given
time does not permit simultaneous recognition of all that God is, or
is to us e.g. God's wrath and mercy.
-- I noticed you get a lot of flak on this
score in your tangles with the skeptics, they just can't see both
as simultaneously possible and consistent in God (or anything else).
In a sense logically they're 'right'.
[I think your qualification is correct. I don't think 'logically' applies AT ALL in personal-language contexts now, esp. as relates to character attributes. A person can be both happy and sad at the same precise moment--even though 'logic' might asset that opposite properties cannot be existent in the same object simultaneously. Logic is SUCH a 'flat' derivative subset of reality.]
I doubt anything short of a much
bigger God than they unconsciously believe in will get them to see your
point though it was a simple one about literary use of language.
[Actually, I think we can do with less--I think a 'personal' God will suffice for the reconciliation. See my letter on 'grace and justice' in the TQQ lab.]
their polemical stance seems to deny them seeing the obvious, Jesus con-
sistently used hyperbole in his teaching (I'm referring here to the
Jesus wants us to HATE controversy)
[ I just recently learned that overstatement was a standard 1st-century literary device!]
Christ by revealing the fullness (read multi dimensionality & depth )
of the Godhead puts us in position to be more fully aware of what was (is)
always there. Grasping, or being grasped by, the wholeness of God has al-
ways been for me a three or four handkerchief experience. There must be some
way to make this pay off for others!!
[I think one could approach it from a "Christ as the image of..." model. He was obviously the express representation of the Father's character (Hebrews 1) but was ALSO the proto-type of the Comforter (remember the "I will not leave you as orphans... I will give you ANOTHER (of the same kind) Comforter" passages in John 14-17). One could find the situations in Christ's life that best exemplified these aspects and then 'transfer them' to the other Persons...just a thought....]
Communion of the Saints. Remarkable ability to fellowship across the ages,
I communicate, in God, with Christians before (maybe after) us. Not by
psychic visitations but in unity within Christ.
[The ONTIC solidarity of the faithful, as facilitated by the Spirit, is an area I honestly don't understand much about... I find it difficult to delineate the meaning of it, although the general 'shape of it' seems clear.]
God must facilitate this
i.e seems via the Holy Spirit to be able to act as personal switching
network between believers in different time, culture and circumstance. So
I can share in Augustine's apostasy and conversion and the insights that
follow. Huge help in combating the temporal arrogance of modernity.
[This is a type of mystical experience I have not had. I am not aware of Christians outside of space-time--I AM aware of tremendous feelings of love for remote believers IN THIS life--esp. those that I connect up with over the Internet...But I may be too heavily influenced AWAY from this area, due to an early negative (and somewhat comical IMO) experiences as a new, naive believer. In the first year of my walk with the Lord, I believed that God existed 'outside of time' and that the old notion of history as a Wall Mural, in which all temporal events were 'simultaneous' from His perspective, was true. With this framework, when I first read the commands of Paul in the NT to pray for him, that he would be delivered from his persecutors, I figured that I had better do it. That, somehow, if I didn't ask God to free Paul, that the release of Paul (which DID occur) MIGHT not occur (i.e. the past would change) and that I might not have some of the NT Scriptures which God brought me to faith. In the Wall Mural world, it could happen--because my 'future' prayers would not REALLY be future at all to God...He could apply them 'retroactively' (from my perspective)...This was a huge burden on me for a couple of weeks (after all, the NT flatly commanded me to do it!)...Needless to say, this experience and the subsequent insight that I was a bit 'off' on this, made me a bit leery of trans-temporal activities--HOWEVER spiritual! ]
Goodness (Platonic form) is too static. Yet the sentimentalization of love
obscures for us the relation between the good and Love. The result is that we
are left with static 'virtue' lists on the one hand and 'attitude' on the
other. Not the right ingredients for the Lord who 'while we yet sinners,
died for the ungodly'. But Christ's work has to be seen as happening by and
in God. Otherwise the atonement is too horrible to contemplate. Thus another
basis of need for transpersonal dimension(s) in the divine.
[I think you might be on to something here. It WOULD appear hugely 'lop-sided', wouldn't it. I have written a number of pieces on the inter-Trinity experience of the Cross. This line of thinking--the intensity/depth of the Cross as an 'apologetic' for the reality of a tri-personal but integrated God--is worth probing farther. Let's talk more on this one.]
Note, even our
puny sufferings for his sake are held to somehow participate in God's
Connections with philosophy of meaning are obvious. The emphasis in my
mind is on a practical and usable use of Trinitarian ideas to help
Christians and Christians-to-be to see the meaning that God is putting
there so they don't have to: 1. Try make up their own (frequently leading
to fairly wide spread range of negative and destructive results)
2. Help 'moralize =anti-de-moralize' or edify them, me included of course.
I could go on but I'm really trying to get to where the Trinity becomes
not some mysterious concoction that we have do out proof texts but to see it
(Him, Him & Him, sorry ladies) as a kind of capstone of Christian experience,
which is to say, human experience revealed for what in God's sight and under His
grace it is. ' That Christ may be all in all'
After all insofar as it is constitutive in God, we ought not
just admire goodness (dynamic goodness) but ADORE it. Without that, in fact
our obedience is going to be just plain anemic, and non-Christians
intuitively know this.
At any rate if you have any sympathy for the notion I have a couple of
'professional' questions to ask.
1. What (philosophically speaking) is on the table these days that might
help put something together? I suspect you know better than I, and I
promise to look into anything you suggest. The interest here is on resources
and sanity checks not, at least not initially, in any (premature) marriages.
It seems a lot of epistemological water has washed under the bridge since I
flirted briefly with philosophy in school (in the 60's) and positivism seemed
to still hold some sway. Anyway you appear to have kept abreast of this and
I would truly appreciate any pointers and comments you might have.
[I haven't run across much that's not more complex than the 'old stuff'. I would refer you to the "Reason and Religious Belief" book (Oxford) in the Books section, and chapter 9 of "Our Idea of God" (by Thomas V. Morris: IVP. Two articles in "Faith and Philosophy"--and the relevant biblios's--are "Can There be More Than One God?" by Swinburne, 5 (July 1988) and "Logic and the Trinity" by Macnamara, Reyes, & Reyes, vol 11.1 (Jan 94)). The general model I am looking at are the 'social' models--it was the human race that was constructed in HIS image, although individuals are ALSO called such.]
2. You began a thread on OT references that you felt demanded some kind
of (Trinitarian) treatment. I would like to see this carried out. OT/NT
reconciliation (at the conceptual level) always seems to be needed because of
the contrast in immediate 'impact 'between the testaments. I hope that you can
find time to get this fleshed into something that would be serviceable as a
reasonable list and good reference of issues.
It goes without saying that such scriptural support (and restraint) as can
be gotten to will be of decisive importance. I suspect that this requires
a very strong exegetical and interpretive methodology. The potential danger
I sense here is succumbing to our own retrospective Christian hindsight and
thus failing to see possible interpretations of these texts in their own
terms and consonance with the conceptions current to the writers.
[The methodological approach I take to OT interpretations is to make sure that non-Christian exegetes were either 1) uniformly in interpretive agreement with the Christian community; or 2) diversified enough in their understanding as to demonstrate a 'flexible' ambiguity in the passages (with some exegetes selecting the 'Judeo-Christian' approach generically or analogically. What I 'lose' in this approach is the ability to recognize genuine NT contributions to the interpretive venture, against the tradeoff of better margin of error in my interpretations.]
Nevertheless your enterprise could be particularly important in providing
insight into economizing on the number of phil. assumptions etc. needed
because the OT writers just didn't play philosophy, they weren't aware of
what was going on in Greece, which they mostly pre-dated anyway.
[As far as I can tell so far, the prevailing 'worldview' of OT history provides an almost point-for-point correlation with the God-Lord: Father-Son patterns Paul uses in the NT. In other words, in the ANE, the relationship between the "god" and His/her historical regent (and 'image', I might add) was never really made explicit. The articulation was all over the map, from the simple " King=good man, but not God" through "King=good man, even a lesser, but real offspring of God" on to "King=God"...One can easily see
the ambiguity inherent in such a situation, and many see the pauline formulae such as I Cor 8:4-6 as simply 'stating the mystery'.
[Where this nets out, is that the ANE categories of God-active-in-history-thru-a-Regent will form the paradigmatic 'category' RATHER THAN the speculative structures of Greece.]
situation seems to be different. Of course John's use of logos glares at us
like a jewel of synthesis and Paul seems to know something about what's
up too, both for better (when to play) and worse (when to refrain).
The current status is a shambles. The Creation Science (shudder) of the
Fundamentalists is so immune to evidence, shot through with special pleading
and implausible that it is an embarrassment.
Whoops I've got to run for now, I'll finish this later but send what here
on anyway ... forgive the incompleteness.
God keep you in his never failing providence
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