Trinity, Fact or Fiction
There are church teachings and then there is “THE WORD OF GOD”. I like an expansive definition of THE WORD OF GOD. For me, THE WORD OF GOD is not the written words in our Bible, but the word that comes to me as a I study individually and within a group, those written words. The WORD OF GOD is living, I like to say, always changing due to my external circumstances. Sometimes challenging me, other times comforting me.
When I refer to the words on the pages of the Bible as the word of God, so much more is included in the Bible than in the doctrines or dogmas of the Church. The Church has a way of inappropriately reducing scripture, to force a doctrine, rather than allowing the wider, richer, and I would say truer perspective, of the Bible to speak for itself. The Bible is a Library of books, and poems, stories, and letters. My favorite saying concerning the Bible, “The Bible was written by different people at different times, who understood God differently”. That sums it up. When we reduce the Bible, in the case concerning the Trinity, we eliminate many verses and voices of scripture, who might have understood the relationship between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, differently. We have the Trinity, the Bible writers did not. Their view of the relationship between God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is much richer and diverse.
Why would Jesus be seated at the Right hand of God if he was God? Used 8 times in scripture, such as:
Mark 16:19 (NRSV)
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
Whoever wrote this verse probably had a different understanding of the Trinity than we do.
Why would Jesus claim to be the “Son of God”, a phrase which represents that Jesus is a child of God, not God? This is called Subordinationism, a heresy in the Church. In the four Gospels Jesus claims he is the Son of God, only 2 times, both in the Gospel of John.
John 5:25 (NRSV)
[Jesus said], “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
John 11:4 (NRSV)
But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
“Son of God” is most often used by demons and evil spirits when speaking to Jesus….go figure:
Mark 3:11 (NRSV)
Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!”
Luke 4:3 (NRSV)
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”
More important than “Son of God” as a phrase Jesus uses as self-disclosure is Jesus’ use of the phrase, “Son of Man”. Jesus calls himself, “Son of Man” in each of the four Gospels, and not only 2 times, but listen to this, 84 times! Yes, 84 times! It is Jesus’ preferred self-description of himself.
Matthew 8:20 (NRSV)
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Mark 2:10 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—
Luke 7:34 (NRSV)
Jesus said to the Pharisees, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
John 6:53 (NRSV)
So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
I am listing only 4 verses, add another 80 and you will have the collection of Jesus calling himself, “Son of Man”.
What is the “Son of Man”, a human being? This is a big question in Biblical Scholarship. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophet Ezekiel is called by God, “Son of Man”, 94 times, in the book named after him. There appears to be something going on with this phrase, “Son of Man” that is mysterious. I doubt Ezekiel ever considered himself equal to God.
Whoever wrote these verses probably had a different understanding of the Trinity than we do.
I could go on…and I will, what do I do with these verses that show subordination?
John 14:28 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.”
Mark 10:18 (NRSV)
Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”
Matthew 24:36 (NRSV)
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Remember that many of the doctrines of the church were created at a time when the Church was the authority of faith, not the Bible. The Bible as authority does not become prominent until the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s. (Disclaimer, it was the Authority of the Church that created the Bible. Thankfully the Church allowed for dissenting views within the scriptural writings, while discarding much material that did not agree with the Church’s teaching)
My point is that Jesus wants us to follow his teachings. Do not discard Jesus because of the doctrines of the Church. Scripture is much more alive, freeing and expansive, than what the Church has articulated as authoritative.
Use scripture, tradition/doctrine and experience, in your faith Journey. Don’t worry about facts or fiction. Anchor yourself to truth and grace and live a life of love.