“Much education consists in the instilling of unfounded dogmas in place of a spirit of inquiry”
Over the first several centuries of the Christian Church’s history its leaders meet on a number of occasions to argue over the definition of its belief particularly concerning the nature of Jesus.The Council of Calcedon which met in 451 was instrumental in clarifying some of the definitions of the Nicean Creed formulated in 321.The creed defines the Trinity as Christians should believe it.
As the centuries progressed the belief that the rational mind was the preeminent function of the mind, the church became increasingly adamant about the rightness of its statements of belief. As communication through travel expanded around the planet it argued its point more ferociously through its missionaries.
Through our last century knowledge has expanded so greatly that right thinking is not as clear cut as it previously was. One major difference is that people are more inclined to believe that culture shapes our thinking. There is no exact definition that fits all people for all time.
I have been reading a book that examines the definitions of Jesus from the perspective of different cultures. It begins with the Western worlds dependence upon the traditional creeds of Nicea, formulated through the influence of Greek Philosophy. That is the world from which most of us have emerged.
The book then looked at the nature of Jesus from the African perspective. There is no doubt that the growth of Christianity in Africa has made it the largest part of the Christian Faith in our day. The definitions of Chalcedon don’t really speak to them. One of the issues for them was how the Lordship of Jesus fits into their native practices.
In Asia, Christianity has had several influences going back to 600 AD to the 1200’s then 1500’s with different missionary endeavours. But during the last one hundred years the North American Pentecostal church has influenced Chinese Christianity significantly. Now a more probing question remains for the Chinese regarding how Christianity should be embraced through their own Chinese perspective of life.
Latin America was the other major area of discussion. Through the last century it has been most significantly shaped by the liberation movement that has looked at the story of Jesus within the context of its poor and marginalized population.
In each culture different questions and expectations have arisen.What stands out is that the Greek Philosophical culture does not connect with these other cultures.
What does it say for us? In our own western culture there is a broad span of population and academia that now believe the rational mind is just one way of knowing. More accurately we know through experience. As many in our society no longer want to be controlled by dogma, many want the freedom to explore the path of truth more freely.
What I believe is that this puts the responsibility for understanding our faith far more clearly in our own hands. To grow in Christ one can no longer be reliant upon reciting some statements of belief. To grow in Christ one must LIVE in Christ.
I have mentioned on numerous occasions my study of the work of Raimon Panikkar. What he shares with us is that God, creation and humanity are integrally interwoven as one dynamic reality. Reality is a trifold reality. Or to put it in our Christian terms. It is a Trinity.
Trinity is not best understood by rational definition, but more broadly the experiential way of knowing. This experiential knowing in the style of Trinity is to be open to all, through the integral relationship of God, creation and humanity.
It brings to my mind the meeting Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at Jacobs well. In discussion with her he spoke of the time when people will worship in spirit and truth. We have a special interest in the Trinity as it is our parish name
I believe the best form of celebration is by embracing the faith journey modelled upon the Trinitarian experience, more so than being about to declare the trinitarian formula. You can’t experience the trinity without considering its formularies, but you can recite the formularies without experiencing the Trinity