Definitions, dogma and doubts.

Signpost for Sunday 27 May, 2018, Trinity Sunday: Isa 6:1-8; Ps 29; Rom 8:12-17; John 3:1-17:

This is a special Sunday, when we commemorate the three-ness of God, and the best (and almost only) reference in the Bible that the makers of our lectionary can find appropriate, is the “Holy, Holy, Holy” shouted by a group of supernatural creatures in the vision of a holy man about 740 years before Jesus was born. The only other reference in the Bible is in the “sign-off” sentence for the second letter from Paul to the Corinthians.

The theory of a Trinity can be found implied in some other New Testament texts. But it wasn’t until the second century of our Era that the three classical creeds (Apostles, Nicene, and the one called the creed of St. Athanasius, or Quicunque Vult) that The Trinity was defined. And belief in it became a necessity for acceptance into the fellowship of Church. That, with a few exceptions, remained the situation for the next eighteen centuries! It is amazing that those creeds survived, (translated but not unchanged), such upheavals as radical as the Reformation.

Towards the end of the 20th century various branches of the Anglican family of Churches (and other families I expect) started to accept the fact that language doesn’t stay still, and started to re-write their creeds. A good example is on page 481 of the New Zealand Prayer Book. We at St. Paul’s also had a collection of creeds on transparencies, and from time to time we chose one and put it on the overhead projector and recited it together. One of the better examples was written by a 15 year old school-boy.

Before I had to stop preaching, one of our lady enablers asked me to write my creed for her. I think she was afraid that I was getting a bit too heretical. I typed an example and presented it to her at my next interview. She took it away and never mentioned it again.

Most of the examples of creeds that I have come across pre-suppose that God is three-in-one, i.e. a Trinity. If we assert (and we do, every Sunday) that there must be some “Power” that causes to be: Time and space;  An uncountable number of galaxies existing in that time and space; Each galaxy consisting of an uncountable number of suns; Many of which will have a solar system like ours; Containing planets like ours, where living creatures could evolve like ours… is it not presumptuous to assert that we know that “Power” to consist of three “Persons” to which we can attach three labels?

If thoughts like that are too difficult for you to explain in words, join the club!

P.S. I forgot to mention that Athanasius was the first member of the club. Verse 9 of his creed goes: “The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible: and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible”. What do you think of that?

From the collected Signposts of Brye Blackhall

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