Posts Tagged ‘Trinity’

nothing is ritual

January 9, 2009

Awhile back I posted a book review on here for The Shack by William P. Young.  I really liked the book.  I was simultaneously taking a class in systematic theology and it was incredible to see all the theological ideas I had studied dance around on the pages in ways I never would have dreamt.  Whatever you think of the validity of ideas presented, it is a well crafted book that will challenge your view of God, yourself, and really every other person you might meet.  My favorite line is this book is

“nothing is ritual”

This is said by God, or if you wish, the way God chooses to present God’s self to the main character in the story.  And it is directed at the main character who is having dinner with the Trinity.  Yup…that’s right…the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  To get a real grasp of the power of these words, you might need to read the book.  And it might not hit you the ay it did me, but I was moved.  Something deep in me shifted when I read those words.  In a world of “shoulds” and “musts” that are crammed down our throats from infancy, God would not have us be slaves to the “shoulds” and “musts.”  There is no formula for a relationship with God.  There is no secret handshake, special prayer, or required reading.  While the reading and praying will undoubtedly will help us get to know God, that’s not the substance of our relationship to God.  So while I love tradition and appreciate those who encourage me to be disciplined in my efforts to seek God, I was reminded in this book that “this’ does not equal “that.”  Bible study, prayer, church attendance, ministry service, fill-in-the-blank-here, does not equal relationship with God. 

May I always seek to understand the underlying meaning of the traditions in the body of Christ and never forget they are only a very small part of what God wants from me: my heart.

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Flame of Love: A book review

July 25, 2008

**Disclaimer: This is copied and pasted from a paper and as such sounds much more heady.** 

 As Pinnock sees it, “Western Christianity has confined the Spirit to the margins of the church and subordinated it to the mission of the Son.” [1]  However, the Spirit, “called the Paraclete in John’s gospel…is personal agent teacher and friend.”[2]  In his first chapter, “Spirit & Trinity,” Pinnock lays out what is seems to be the foundation for his pneumatology: the “social trinity” where “God is constituted by three subjects, each of whom is distinct from the others and is the subject of its own experiences in the unity of one divine life.”[3]  Moving on to discuss what this might look like, Pinnock writes about Spirit in Creation, which will be discussed more in a different post, as well as Spirit and Christology.  This is a most interesting chapter in that it highlights the obvious oversight on much of Western Christianity with respect to the interaction between Son and Spirit.  In the opening for this chapter, Pinnock states “The title ‘Christ’ itself signifies anointing—in this case by the Spirit.”[4]  While this is somewhat obvious, it seems to be something that is commonly overlooked by scholars and laity alike.  It seems as though the paradox of the Trinity is too much for our minds to handle and so despite the acceptance of God as Triune, we continue to split the Trinity to help communicate our ideas about the members of the Trinity.  But “Christology must not lack for pneumatology.”[5]

In his chapter ‘Spirit and Church,’ Pinnock opens with discussion of how to view the church saying, “Let us see it as a continuation of the Spirit-anointed event that was Jesus Christ.”[6]  Just as Christ was anointed by the Spirit, so the church was anointed by the Spirit at Pentecost and is “dependent on the power of the Spirit just as Jesus was.”[7]  And so are people as individuals.  While it is true that a salvation or conversion experience results in change in status from guilty to not guilty, the emphasis on this aspect of salvation has left a rift in the whole point of that change in status: namely, union with God that is now possible via the Spirit.[8]

After his chapter on ‘Spirit and Union,’ Pinnock goes into slightly murkier waters and takes the concept of union further by tackling the idea of Universality.  “The Spirit meets people not only in religious spheres but everywhere,”[9] he says.  Would a gracious and loving God send someone to hell that lived a God honoring life even if they didn’t know God’s name?  After all, Paul praises the Athenians for their worship of an unknown god and goes on to explain to them who this known God really is (cf. Acts 17:23).  Lastly Pinnock discusses the concept of ‘Spirit and Truth.’  He opens with the statement, “A theology that does not inquire after God’s will for the present may be orthodox but is not really listening to God.”[10]  While some may find this statement somewhat dangerous, Pinnock goes on to say that “doctrines are to be timely witnesses, not timeless abstractions.”[11]  This seems to be a healthy challenge for those who are engaged in theology, since “fidelity and creativity are both called for.”[12]


[1] Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1996), 10.

[2] Ibid., 35.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 79.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 113.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 149.

[9] Ibid., 187.

[10] Ibid., 215.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

Theological Babble

June 5, 2008

Below is a discussion board post for my Systemaitic Theology class.  While I don’t really feel like providing the background of this post I figured I woud put it up here in hopes of sparking conversation. 

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After reading through Chapter 9 in McGrath’s Intro and the assigned readings in McGrath’s Reader, there are quite a few ideas swirling around in my head.  I found the discussion about the gender of God most intriguing and took away a few good nuggets that I am sure I will be able to use in future conversations since this topic comes up quite a bit.  Most importantly was the portion where McGrath discusses the “pagan overtones” of attributing sexual functions to God (p. 204).  Only a few paragraphs later however, I had to chuckle when he wrote, “He is neither man nor woman; he is God.”  Language is so limited in it’s ability to communicate accurately.  I wish we had a neutral pronoun that was personal (i.e., not “it”).

The portions of our reading that covered the topic of whether or not God suffers was also very intriguing.  Honestly I hadn’t really thought about this before.  It seemed to me that in reading the scriptures there were many examples of God “feeling” emotion to include suffering.  Genesis 6 is a great example from our reading.  I was challenged in my association of perfection with impassibility.  I have seen this come out in my own life and I believe I have tried to define God in this way.

Lastly, I found the excerpt from Moltmann’s article in the Reader very thought provoking specifically in his discussion of the Holy Spirit in relation to God’s suffering on the cross.  He says

This is why it was possible at a later period to speak, with reference to the cross, of homoousia, the Son and the Father being of one substance.  In the cross, Jesus and his God are in the deepest sense separated by the Son’s abandonment by the Father, yet at the same time they are in the most intimate sense united in this abandonment or “giving up.”  This is because this “giving up” proceeds from the event of the cross that takes place between the Father who abandons and the Son who is abandoned, and this “giving up” is none other than the Holy Spirit. (p. 229)

Then later on he says, “My interpretation of the death of Christ, then, is not as an event between God and man, but primarily as an event within the Trinity between Jesus and his Father, and event from which the Spirit proceeds.”  (p. 229)

This raises many questions for me.  I have not viewed the Trinity in this way before.  I had heard the idea of the Spirit being the result of the relationship between the Father and the Son but I didn’t have the context that I have in this article.  At first I thought about how my present view of the Spirit’s place within the Trinity is more along the lines of a separate “person” who though subject to the Father, still acts on his own.  I thought about how in my mind, the way Moltmann understands the relationship of the Spirit with the Father and Son doesn’t seem to give the Spirit the “personhood” I have in my mind.  This made me think of the discussion in McGrath’s Intro about the definition of the term person so that was helpful.  But that still does not resolve the issue in my mind.  To use Buber’s terminology, doesn’t this view make the Holy Spirit out to be more of an “it” instead of a “Thou”?  And it seems to me that viewing God’s Holy Spirit in this way limits him somehow.  If the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all of the same substance how can it be that the Holy Spirit is the result of the relationship of the other two?