We could say that the winter of humanity’s spirituality is coming quickly. God’s overcoat, known by its Trinity named brand appears to have worn out and needs to be replaced by a brand new one.
It was the great doctrine of the Trinity that gave Christianity its distinctive identity and one might say held it together for two millennia. But the church has worn this brand overcoat a long time. The popular opinion of our day is that people want the freedom to explore spirituality without the constraints of such a dogmatic name. It has seemingly become too complex to understand and hence its time to discard Christianity’s old Trinitarian coat, and explore life with greater freedom.
When we speak of God we do speak of mystery. It is often said that as soon as you put a definition to mystery you have lost it. Hence the appeal of Buddhism to many when it speaks of the Divine Absolute with words like ‘emptiness’ or ‘no-thing.’ Such words avoid definition to preserve the mystery of divinity.
It’s hard to get one’s head around the new information age that the scientific world has uncovered for us. Descriptions of outer space, understandings of the smallest particles of matter, pictures of the myriad dynamics operating in our brain to energise our mind. The new definition of reality that has come through the scientific world has captured most people’s imagination.
We could say, in science we trust; when we go to the doctor, when we drive our car, when we fly in an aeroplane. Is science humanity’s new warm winter coat. For many the answer is yes. It is smart and fits well.
A scholar that has written profusely over the last half century developing his own comprehensive explanation of all things and someone I have been greatly influenced by is Ken Wilber. (You might know I have sometimes quoted him). His interest has been in the reconciling of the scientific world through to the mystical domain of spirituality, cross the Eastern and Western world.
A point that he makes is that through the middle of the last century many classical scientists became less interested in studying purely the physical world and branched out into the many other fields of experience. He speaks of how they took the scientific method of exploration with them into the more subtle domains of experience; such as psychology, sociology, culture, spirituality, music, art …. etc
I think it’s important to know in these times when fundamentalism gains a central place in the media’s discussion, there are many thoughtful people including theologians who value the broad world of knowledge and continue to speak or write of the way we can best describe our world. Their call is to speak through the wholistic paradigm of life.
FROM DEFINITION TO NAVIGATION
So should we take our old Trinitarian labelled coat down to the op shop, or hang on to it for at least another year, maybe two, or who knows how long. It just might come back into fashion. If the Church has made a mistake I suggest it was in trying to preserve its definition far too tightly and in so doing it became to self- preoccupied. But as I said earlier if you name something to precisely you can remove the life of its mystery.
Rather than definition I see the name of the trinity, more as a navigational system. The GPS uses its three perspectives to locate a point. It points to something to guide our behaviour. We can follow it or we can depart, but it is always there to reorientate ourselves.
If we see the Definition of Trinity as a navigational system, we are encouraged to keep a range of thoughts in our mind, none is perfect but together our awareness is comprehensive and life giving.
If the church has seemed to have failed with its doctrines, it is because it tried to respond to the great challenge of defining that which is so difficult to define. Buddhism has been wise in speaking of emptiness and it offers something important to remind us that life is mystery. However, Christianity has tried to capture something more specific than this mystery.
It has tried to affirm that this mystery is loving and intimately involved in creation. The mystery of all that is, is not cold and distant, like a big heartless computer beyond outer space. Creation is loving and nurturing like the parent mother father.
The mystery of life is found in the purposeful possibilities of the human engagement of loving interaction. I spoke last week of there being no spirit without word and no word without spirit.
It is Jesus and the Holy Spirit who bring this alive to us in the simplest images. The mystery of God is intimately involved in all creation, in its most spirited life, in every human.
To live with this awareness is best done when we see, the word Trinity not as a definition, but rather as a navigational approach to living.
Let’s return to our hall closest. What of our old coat labelled with the brand Trinity? I’ve changed my mind, I’m going to keep it. You never know it just may do what I need it to do. By the way that doesn’t mean I can’t get another new winter coat as well. It will be useful as well.
As a Church, we are blessed to carry the name of Trinity. Of all names, it is the one that draws us back to the heart of life. Thank you for coming together today to celebrate the ultimate mystery of life itself.