A New Conception of the Trinity for Post-Trinity Faith

The expression and experience of God, of Love-in-Action, exists in plurality and multiplicity. Instead of affirming a definition of God, a postmodern Trinitarian construction can allow us to affirm an experience of God.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

In previous articles on The Huffington Post, I had begun to argue for an experience of God without God. In this I meant recognition of what Simone Weil described this way: "I am an atheist and a Christian, for what we call God cannot possibly exist -- but the object of my devotion is not in vain." God, in this conception, becomes a word we use to describe Love. Other words to describe Love are hope, justice, mercy etc. As one Pagan scholar put it, "God/dess is not something we believe in, but something we participate in."

While I hope my approach is wide enough to engage conversation among a variety of faith traditions, I myself will continue to speak as a Christian-on-a-journey. I hope this will provoke the thought of my fellow Christians and invite a space of mutual co-inquiry among my fellow travelers of all faiths.

Trinitarian Concerns

Among my more conservative fellow travelers in the Christian tradition is a concern over the Trinity. In addition to the uniqueness of Christ the Trinity has become a sort of love-it-or-leave it test for some Christians. If we cannot affirm the Trinity as a fact and definition of the nature of God, then we have removed ourselves from the Christian continuity of history. Of course, that continuity contains a lot of debate and a variety of opinion on matters such as the Trinity, but this fact seems to be overlooked often.

Trinity is problematic for Christians who define themselves as orthodox, in the sense that they affirm the "historic" tradition and teaching of the church. It's problematic in that the phrase and concept never appear in the Christian or Hebrew scriptures. There are a few scripture references that can be taken to represent a Trinity concept in its infancy, but they only work if we play games with the text. Language taken to represent something Trinity-like is found in the text, but again it takes an interpretive bias in order to land on the three-who-are-one-who-is-three-who-is-one construction of God.

What many of these so-called orthodox believers don't want to admit to is the fact that to get to a Trinity, they must affirm the councils of the early Church as having engaged in an open canon -- an idea that revelation continues and that the Christian scriptures do not contain the full revelation of God. It's an almost Buddhist or Jewish approach, which I would welcome in the church but which the conservative/orthodox and traditional believer tends to shy away from, even as they are dependent on it.

As I continue to expand on my conception of a postmodern theology rooted in a weakness of God and a spirituality of incarnation -- we participate in God and make God real through the work of Love -- I hope to not move away from a concept of Trinity but into a new relationship with it. As a theopoet I am less concerned with constructions of final definitions of God but in the surplus of meaning found in the contemporary Christian tradition.

Trinitarian Musings

The history of Christian thought is a history of poetry. It is a history of conversation, debate and diversity. The spaces I have here to explore these ideas are limited, and as such I cannot recount -- nor would I be able to -- the entire history of Trinitarian thought. Instead I will engage as a poet of faith and continue the conversation that my forebears began and continue the work of exploring the meaning of Trinity for us in a contemporary, postmodern context.

If the traditional view is called the Orthodox view, then my view could be considered to be a Paradoxological view -- one rooted in a plurality and diversity of meaning. In this way the theology I am constructing is not a truth statement but a signpost on the journey of faith. As I will explain, this is an essential component of how we can view the Trinity in the postmodern world.

The Trinity affirms an image of God rooted in plurality and multiplicity. Despite attempts to the contrary, it affirms a God who is diverse and who thrives in plurality, which is transgender (Male Father, Female Spirit and Two-Spirited Son who is a incarnation of God's feminine wisdom) and is immanent, transcendent and personal. For a faith that views God as Love-in-Action, a God who thrives in plurality of expression -- as must the work of Love -- is liberating. It puts forth a poetic of the experience of God that does not rely on affirmations of the essential definition or defense of a Christian construction of God but instead recognizes that the experience of God is itself plural and finds expression in plurality. Trinity can be a way of opening ourselves up to the plurality of God's expression in the world and affirming the unique gifts and diversity of the world's great faiths.

This moves us away from Orthodoxy to Paradoxology. The expression and experience of God -- the expression and experience of Love-in-Action -- exists in plurality and multiplicity. Instead of affirming a definition of God, a postmodern Trinitarian construction can allow us to affirm an experience of God. As a Christian I can affirm an experience of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit (or Creator, Creation and Creating, or Love, Loving and Lover) without having to disaffirm the traditions and experiences of my neighbor, whatever his or her faith or non-faith.

New Trinitarian models allow for the space for new visions of humanity in relationship and the church as agents of love and change in the world. If plurality is the major expression and manifestation of God, then it is through affirming, allowing and expressing plurality in our communities that change and diversity can be encouraged. As we become more diverse -- and thus closer to our image of God -- the more diversity we will welcome in the world. Trinity is not a place to resist the experiences of God of others but a place to welcome their views and experiences as valid and part of the expression of Love-in-Action in the world today.

Trinitarian Futures

Religions are often characterized by their identification of a deity; how we express and define our God is usually in relationship with how we define ourselves. If we say God is vengeful or God is wrathful, then we usually identify ourselves as deserving of vengeance and wrath or in the exclusive club that has escaped vengeance and wrath. When we say God is Love, then we express a sense of ourselves -- an expression of spirituality -- as deserving, needing and expressing love.

In the Christian tradition -- and several others -- this relationship between God and our self-understanding is usually expressed in constructions of salvation. God as Love seeks to save us from lovelessness, and God as Trinity as I have expressed it saves us from the need for exclusive claims and offers the opportunity for expressing and experiencing God as plurality, multiplicity and diversity. Salvation is not towards exclusive constructs and absolute claims, but towards pluralism.

In the traditional understanding of Trinity, no single part of the Trinity -- not the Father, not the Son and not the Spirit -- is the true God while the rest of it are subordinate Gods or parts of God. Trinity is God. Plurality, Diversity and Multiplicity are God. Affirming multiplicity, diversity and multiplicity are ways of affirming the role of God in the human condition. It is a way of expressing the work of God in love and the necessity of Love to destroy our exclusive and absolute claims and affirm Love as an action that creates larger forms of inclusiveness, for a God who is Love-in-Action cannot be fully realized in the world if Love is exclusive and discriminatory in its claims. In this way I affirm an experience and expression of God that is at its heart Trinitarian.

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community