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Aug 26, 2006

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Sivin

I'll just say "me too!"

Josh

Yeah, this is solid. It's got such a great focus on our call as a church today.

Sophia Sadek

Thanks for the posting.

This call is especially poignant in a time when people are coming to realize that the sacred scriptures have been poorly represented over the centuries. It's good to see that that tradition is still alive and well. You are providing an excellent example of what to avoid.

Michael Kruse

Thanks for your comment Sophia but I was a little unclear about your point. I'm I understanding correctly that you dislike this call because you view it as a continuation of corupted Christianity? If so, I am curious what aspects of it indicate this to you. Peace!

Sophia Sadek

I'm sorry if I came across as expressing antipathy. In observing someone who has stumbled, we do not detest them. Instead, we point out the stumbling block so that others do not trip on it.

The doctrine of the Trinity was created for the express purpose of power politics. It is a tool of subjugation, not liberation. It belongs to Ceasar, not to Christ.

Michael Kruse

"The doctrine of the Trinity was created for the express purpose of power politics. It is a tool of subjugation, not liberation. It belongs to Ceasar, not to Christ."

Thanks Sophia. That helps me understand what you are objecting to. I have seen this anti-Trinitarian view popping up in a couple of places and I am unclear what is driving it. The word “trinity” does not appear in the Bible but the concept is every where: Jesus and the Father are God; the Holy Spirit is God; there is one God; Father, Son and Spirit are each persons.

The Bible is not a theological textbook laying out a systematic theology. I understand it as witnesses testifying to acts of God in history. Rodney Stark in his book “Victory of Reason” points out that Judaism and Islam look back to a code written by Moses or Mohammad and seek to live according to the code and theology they wrote down. We can’t do that in Christianity because Jesus didn’t write anything down. What we have are testimonies, each written with different emphases and purposes. From these testimonies we have to reason our way, with God’s help, to the truth and to ethical implications. We don’t have a manual and it is erroneous to treat it as one. Because it isn’t specifically identified and named in the “manual” doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

The Apostles Creed as we have it appears to have been formalized about 212 CE. The scholars I have read believe that versions of this creed (that differed in some aspects but followed its Trinitarian formula) extend back well into the first century and likely precede the authoring of some books of the Bible. People affirmed it prior to baptism. The word “trinity” was in use by at least 190 CE, when Clement of Alexandria referred to the “Holy Trinity” and seems be using it as an expression that he assumes his readers are familiar. However, the Hueleatt Manusrcipt (50 CE) and the letter of Barnabas (74 CE) both make reference to Jesus as God’s equal. From Artistides 140 CE "[Christians] are they who, above every people of the Earth, have found the truth, for they acknowledge God, the creator and maker of all things, in the only-begotten Son and in the Holy Spirit"

So am I unclear where the idea comes from that is comes from Caesar (Constantine and Nicea in the Fourth Century?). Furthermore, I am unclear how it is a tool subjection.

Ted Gossard

Michael,
Thanks for sharing this. I can say, Amen! too.

Michael Kruse

You are welcome.

Sophia Sadek

At the time of the Nicene Council, there were a variety of traditions that shared the same apostolic creed. Each one has a subtle difference in the way that they perceived Father, Son, and Spirit. The role of trinitarian doctrine was to outlaw those who did not agree with the official, caesar-sanctioned perception.

In order to understand the doctrine as a tool of subjugation, you would have to look at the history of how the doctrine was applied in practice. You would also have to be open to the possibility that those who perceive Father, Son, and Spirit a tad differently, may have a valid reason for doing so. These are things you may not be prepared to do.

Michael Kruse

Thanks Sophia. While I have read on these topics I certainly would not hold myself out as an expert. I have read enough about Nicea to know that it was about a very complex web of theology, politics and cultural forces. It seems reductionistic to me distill this down to bare knuckled power play. Some things are true of God and some are not. Arius denied that Jesus was co-equal with God, despite this being attested to repeatedly throughout the intervening period from Jesus to Nicea. That error had significant implications for how we understand the work of God in the world and had to be corrected.

One way in which I know the doctrine of the Trintiy is being abused right now is to teach that there is a hierarchical relationship between the members of the trinity. Many conservative evangelical and fundamentalist camps like the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and theologians like Wayne Grudem teach that Christ is eternally subordinate to the Father and women are to be subordinate to men. They claim “equal in being, different in function” and by different they mean hierarchy or subordination. But if someone is eternally subordinate – that is to say their only moral choice is to be subordinate – then they are not equal in being. This is a novel doctrine that has emerged in the last thirty years and it is just another version of the error of subordinationism. The only other time we have seen this doctrine emerge in recent eras is with people like Charles Hodge in the nineteenth century in his defense of slavery. He taught that women are subordinate to men, and that slaves are subordinate to masters, just as the Son is subordinate to the Father (in being and function.) I reviewed a great book about this topic last week: ">http://krusekronicle.typepad.com/kruse_kronicle/2006/08/jesus_and_the_f.html"> "Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity" by Kevin Giles. A Book Review

I say all this to make this point. I think it is important to distinguish between false teaching and sound teaching that has been used falsely. In the case above, the problem is not the doctrine of the Trinity. It is a distorted version of the Trinity that has been used to subjugate others. Returning to the historic doctrine of the Church is what provides the corrective to subjugation in this case. Any doctrine or idea can be perverted into something evil. I think the aim should be to recover truth not abandon it when false teachers abuse it.

As to being open to other possibilities, there are degrees of openness. There is an openness that says that I may be in error about the assessment of someone’s character I just met. Then there is openness that says to leave my mind open to the idea that the world is flat. The Trinity falls closer to the latter than the former for me so, yes, it would take some persuading but I would like to think I am open to dialog.

Thanks again for this conversation!

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