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20 June 2007 @ 07:54 am
I've been thinking a lot about the Trinity and have realized I have more than a few problems with it. Strangely enough, I don't have as much problems trying to figure it out (except when I look at this) but I do wonder why it's consider the cornerstone of Christian belief.

The biblical sources on it seem to be very much up to one's interpretation, Jesus never makes mention to anything like the Trinity and it seems to be something that's just been accepted because it's been a part of Christian belief for so long. And while I really like the idea of one creed that binds together all of Christianity, I'm not sure if I get why the Trinity is that belief.

Any thoughts, insights? Is there something I'm missing here?

x-posted to radicals
Current Mood: curiouscurious
Current Music: Wash the angels from your head won't need them anymore
fuck you, internet porn will save the world: a better wayimpactbomb on June 20th, 2007 01:10 pm (UTC)

Join the club. As a Christian, there are few things more annoying to me than the fact that the Trinity is supposedly something that's a lynchpin of faith, and nothing is more noxious than the Athanasian Creed at hammering that stupidity home.

I mean, it's a fairly straightforward exercise in meditating on the mystery of God and therefore kind of useful if you, like the Gnostics and Kabbalists, enjoy contemplating the shape of God's brain, but it's not the beginning and end of all things like many preachers have made it out to be.
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aaron_d_w on June 23rd, 2007 03:46 am (UTC)
I would also recommend looking into Eastern (e.g. Greek, Russian, etc.) Orthodox sources. Although the Orthodox and Catholic share some history, there was a different emphasis and understanding of many of these shared traditions in the East as compared to the West. Many Christians in the West have left Christianity for more Eastern types of religions and eventually ended up finding their home in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It seems that many of these people found the 'best of both worlds' in the Eastern churches.
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aaron_d_w on June 24th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)
I understand. I didn't necessarily intend to imply that I thought you were going to convert, just thought that you would find some interest in looking at traditional Christian doctrine thru a different prism.

A good starting point for an Orthodox outlook might be Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware's books, "The Orthodox Way" or "The Inner Kingdom." Both of those are good reads. I particularly liked "The Inner Kingdom," but "The Orthodox Way" was also well-written.
Non illigitamus carborundumtaumeson on June 20th, 2007 01:31 pm (UTC)
I personally feel that something along the lines of arianism is more likely. arianism was the main believe up until the 4th century and the synod at Nicea.

An interesting tidbit...at the council of nicea, st. nicholas (that st. nick) rushed over to Arian (who was speaking) and punched him in the side of the head.
rebel_poet_1030rebel_poet_1030 on June 20th, 2007 04:22 pm (UTC)
It's true! Santa Claus is comin' to town! *laughs* :)
babydraco on June 20th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
You better not pout
You better not cry
He's gonna punch you in the eye.
Rose Rossroseross on June 22nd, 2007 10:58 am (UTC)
I was so broken up when I first heard that bit of trivia. *Santa Claus* whacking people in theological debates. Yikes. Or when I found out St. Patrick "driving the snakes from Ireland" actually meant persecuting the pagans to death or exile. I am almost afraid to check into St. Francis, for fear I'll find he actually hated animals.
Father Pepper Spray of Forgivenesslogodaedaly on June 20th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure where you got the impression that Arianism was the default until the Council of Nicæa, but that's not true. To get the whole story, a good history of the early church is needed — the first volume of Jaroslav Pelikan's The Christian Tradition deals with Arianism extensively.

The truth is that theology about the Trinity was not formalized and many nuances weren't dealt with. The teachings of Arius were recognized by the majority of the Church to be very problematic and contrary to the Gospel — in particular, the Gospel of John, which teaches that Jesus is the Logos and that the Logos was present and active at the creation of the world.

As these problems came to the fore, the Church formulated a theological response, weighing all the issues involved and trying to understand from Scripture and the teaching of the Apostles preserved in tradition how God wants us to understand the Trinity. The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, developed at the Nicæan Council and the subsequent one at Constantinople, brought together the results of a number of these discernments on various heresies and formalized them. That was the first time the Church had a definitive statement on the matter, but it's absolutely not true that the teachings of Arius were the "main belief" before the Council.
aaron_d_w on June 23rd, 2007 03:49 am (UTC)
Yes, but that's not the end of the story. According to the same tradition that passes down the story of St. Nicholas punching Arius, it is also taught that Mary, the Mother of God, appeared to the other bishops that participated in the Council (each one of them) and told them that St. Nicholas had acted out of righteous indignation rather than out of malice. This led to St. Nicholas's re-instatement. Before that, and after punching Arius, the bishops had decided to depose St. Nicholas.

Perhaps you should tell (or be aware of) the entire story!!! ;) Your version makes St. Nicholas out to be the bad guy!
Rose Rossroseross on June 23rd, 2007 08:43 am (UTC)
St. Nicholas was a bad guy if he hit people in theological debates.
babydraco on June 20th, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC)

Lots of religions have triple gods or triple goddesses, of course. So I understand the concept.

But what bugs me about the Trinity is being told that I *must* believe in it or I'm not a Christian. I dislike being told by other people who claim they take the Bible literally, that I'm required to believe in something not precisely mentioned in it.

Maybe it was a way for the early church to satisfy everyone. Trying to make both monotheists and polytheists happy?

rebel_poet_1030rebel_poet_1030 on June 20th, 2007 04:19 pm (UTC)
The diagram you posted is not how I've always understood the Trinity. I've always thought of them as the same. In order for them all to be God, they must then in essence all be the same. Perhaps its a bit like Hinduism. Vishnu and Shiva are both aspects of Brama, but Brama is the Supreme Being/God.

Maybe the different parts of the Trinity are just different aspects of what is still the same entity. That way, they retain their distinct nature, but are all "God" at the same time. And because these different aspects are still "God", then they in essence are each other since they are all "God".

Does that make sense?
aaron_d_w on June 21st, 2007 09:15 pm (UTC)
The doctrine of the Trinity developed in early Christianity as a result of two things. First, Christians were strictly monotheistic. They believed, as the Old Testament witnessed, that God is one. At the same time, early Christians were clearly worshipping Jesus Christ as a God. The Bible, and even the New Testament alone, testifies to both of these early presuppositions in Christianity. Consequently, Christians wrestled with this issue for centuries before hammering out the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (more commonly called only the Nicene Creed).

This creed has since been considered a cornerstone of Christian belief, not only or even primarily by Christian fundamentalists, but by Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians who tend to be less 'fundamentalist,' at least as that term has come to have meaning today.

To properly understand Trinitarian doctrine or the Nicene Creed, one should understand that in the early Church, Christians did not consider their creeds, definitions, and formulae to be cataphatic (positive statements about what they believed) as much as apophatic statements (negative statements that defined what they do not believe). In other words, Trinitarian doctrine is not as much about what one does believe as what one does not believe. The early Church essentially said that if one were to believe Jesus Christ is a mere man and not God, then that person is not truly Christian.

Finally, one person responded that the Trinitarian doctrine might have been an attempt to appease both monotheists and polytheists. If that were the case, it was an awful attempt that pleased neither side. Instead, it is a unique understanding of God that leaves most monotheists (e.g., Jews, Muslims) and most polytheists (pagans, the Romans) dissatisfied. Consequently, it is my belief that the Nicene Creed was not an attempt to please either monotheists or polytheists. Instead, it was an attempt to reconcile the belief in one God with the worship of Jesus Christ.
babydraco on June 23rd, 2007 03:32 am (UTC)
Well, I didn't say the idea worked :)
aaron_d_w on June 23rd, 2007 03:36 am (UTC)
True, you did not say that! ;)

However, I think it worked very well, which is why it has withstood the test of time. This issue did not cease to be an issue after Nicea, nor after Constantinopole. It would be a mistake to think that Christians have blindly accepted Trinitarian doctrine since the 4th century.
Rose Rossroseross on June 22nd, 2007 10:51 am (UTC)
I'm afraid I tend to see the Trinity as a sophistry that allows the religion to claim monotheism while allowing Jesus to be worshipped as God.

And it causes no end of problems, from my point of view. So many people worship God and could find unity in that. The divisions and strife seem to happen when, instead, we debate about who's messenger was holy.

"Do you love God and worship Him?"

"Well sure!"

"So do I. We must have a lot in common. Do you believe Jesus was God on Earth?"

"Well, er... not exactly."

"You are going to hell."

When I read Jesus' statements and sermons, he seems worship God and to advise us to do the same. I don't think he wanted to be worshipped himself though, of course, I could be wrong.
aaron_d_w on June 23rd, 2007 03:41 am (UTC)
I am interested in knowing what problems you see with it. I would have thought that the implications of the Trinity would be appealing to you. Namely, I thought that you would like the implication that love within a community is an eternal principle according to Trinitarian doctrine.

Forgive me, but your last argument seemed overly simplistic, much like a 'straw-man' argument. I'm sure we could all agree that those who follow their traditions blindly, condemning everyone else to hell, are missing the point. I would think, however, that we could focus on the real issues rather than lumping all Trinitarian-believing Christians into the category of fundamentalists (many of whom [e.g., certains Pentecostals] are not even Trinitarians).
Rose Rossroseross on June 23rd, 2007 08:41 am (UTC)
I think I just did list my objection. God is an infinite, eternal spirit. When we imagine Him to be less than that, we fall into error. We think He is small and only preached to one group of people or that He favors one culture over another. People may do that but I don't think God does. I think He loves us all equally and He is *certainly* not small.

My illustration is not specious. It's a conversation I've had dozens of times. Orthodox Christian dogma insists upon Jesus being revered in the same way that God Himself is revered. If people don't, the traditional dogma doesn't accomodate them. It was *built* not to accomodate them. Rejecting the doctrine of the trinity is heresy. Today, doing so just excludes people from orthodox churches but there were long centuries when it was a death sentence to reject the concept. I'm glad we're all free, here and now, to believe as our spirits command.
aaron_d_w on June 23rd, 2007 01:41 pm (UTC)
OK. I think I see now. You disagree with Orthodox Christian dogma, so anyone who does not see God as you do (i.e. as an infinite, eternal spirit) has fallen into error. They should perhaps be tolerated, but it is OK to make fun of them for being 'dogmatic.' I get it now.

The reality is that you are no different from the so-called fundamentalists that you seem to despise. The only difference is your doctrine, not the spirit that you criticize. In fact, you also exclude a large number of people--people who believe there are actually eternal truths that we should strive to learn--and insist that God should be revered as you revere Him/Her/It, whatever you want to call it. Rejecting your doctrine of God is also tantamount to heresy. The only difference is that you have no formal, organized institution from which you can ostracize people like me.

Believe me, there is no one happier for religious freedom than me. I think it is wonderful and I would never want to go back and live in the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, etc. On the other hand, despite the abuses of some churches or by some people, one could make an argument that the notion of heresy is helpful to human souls, if used properly. We would not get mad if our doctor called us a 'heretic' for overdosing on a certain medicine or using medicines that would hurt us rather than do us harm. So why would we get mad if a spiritual doctor told us we are 'heretical' if we have a belief that leads us astray.
Rose Rossroseross on June 23rd, 2007 03:12 pm (UTC)
Actually, Aaron, I don't believe I tried to convert you to anything. You asked me about my personal spiritual beliefs and I shared them with you. If you believe otherwise, that is quite alright.
eileen_s on June 24th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC)
Esoteric Quest
I agree. I see that there are so many different beliefs, visions, ect. As I was reading more and more thought you might be interested in this conference. Please help me pass the word...It looks to be a great historical outlook on the past and to help us with a great outlook on the future.

I am working for an upcoming conference in Spain whose them is about a time when Christians, Jews and Muslims all got along.

Hopefully something great will come out of revisiting that time.
The web site is: www.EsotericQuest.org

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