Sunday 18 May 2008

Trinity Sunday

Highlight of the year: when traditionally Anglican priests go running for cover and handing over the preaching to underlings. When underlings also run for cover, or other jobs, then we get attempts to offer apologies for the Trinity. That is "apology" according to both senses of the word. The Bible readings are, of course, scratchings of the use of flexible words with early salvic meanings, that could have become Unitarian, Arian or Trinitarian in an unknown future. Remember that Unitarians have used the full range of the language too - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and known what these meant. So the liturgy is full of dogma and the sermon ends up being a soft end support.

Thankfully we were saved in our sermon from contemporary metaphors, like "the perfect community" and other such stresses. We had about the struggle to describe Jesus after the full encounter with him, and inadequate language among Jews and Gentiles. Well I would say we don't know about the Jewish Christians. They had to call him Messiah after his death, because otherwise he would be nothing (and had made such impact); before his death the matter was ambiguous because the Son of Man had many meanings. Jesus was preparing a way for the coming of the Son of Man and some wondered whether he was that person, whether he would be transformed and come from the clouds in glory. The Pauline approach - well it's not so much say that he was not fully Jewish and was tainted with Gentile thoughts, but that in his battle with the Law verses Messiah, the switch he made to Messiah from Law (what he defended) meant a salvation religion that put the focus on to Jesus rather than directly on to God and therefore an acceleration in titles was inevitable. That's how I understand it. My understanding is, of course, something of a reconstruction itself - unavoidable - and probably not the whole story, but it's not a bad story.

Early Christians were not trinitarians in the sense that the Trinity was adopted; indeed, even the Apostles' Creed is proto-trinitarian. It is compatible with trinitarian belief but not the same.

For me, Jesus was born of two parents in a perfectly ordinary human way. The mythic texts suggest nothing else - that they are mythic means there is no alternative science here and no magic either. He is entirely human in terms of culture, knowledge, thought forms, behaviours, temptations and the lot. Indeed it is something barmy that these points even have to be said. His humanity is not an issue at all. Divinity is problematic. If there is divinity, it is a quality given by the language we use as a form of giving value. That's all as far as I can tell. It may be wrong, or inadequate, but that is all as far as I can tell.

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