Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Holy Trinity -- I know what it is NOT

So this Sunday is the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Oh Goody. A day to celebrate a doctrine.

The Trinity came up in our Adult Sunday school last Sunday and a young woman very confidently told me that the best way to explain the Trinity was to say it was like an apple --peeling, flesh and seeds. Everyone seemed quite shocked when I had to tell them that really was not a good explanation and was probably heritical, as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three separate persons not part of one God.

So of course then comes the next question...."Well then how would YOU explain it, Pastor?"

Good question.  And I realized I'd really kind of side stepped the question for many years in sermons talking about "the mystery".  

I know what the Trinity is not.  It is not an apple or an egg.   It's not steam, liquid and ice - the persons of the Trinity are God, not forms of God.

I know what else the Trinity is not.  It is NOT God's formal name like my name is Joelle.  Sorry, Robert Jensen and the folks at CORE who like to use that as a way to throw out any feminine language for God.

Honestly Jensen and his ilk have done with the Trinity exactly what God has refused to let us do - back when Jacob wrestled with him and demanded a name (and instead got a new name for himself) , and Moses asked "Well what shall I tell them your name is.?"

I am who I am.  The Holy Trinity is not God's answer to "Tell me your name so I can have the right name unlike the others (like those nasty feminists).

The Trinity is not some dead boring doctrine cooked up by theologians who had nothing to do with real people, real life or real faith.   The teaching about the Trinity is the result of some hard thinking, dicussing (and knock down hard fighting) of real life people who were struggling to express who God is and how he reveals himself to and acts in our lives.

I know what the Trinity is not.   This Sunday I am going to find a way to help people think about what the Trinity is, that also proclaims the Gospel.   So help me God.

Stay tuned.


  1. Waiting with bated breath - I am reading this and wanting a simple (Lutheran) explanation!

  2. Well, actually, there have been a *few* more than just Robert Jensen and Lutheran CORE. See the Conference of Bishops statement at

    However, on the whole I like what you have written, and pretty much agree with it. Blessings on your sermon for this Sunday!

  3. Well I'm not about to go changing the baptismal formula and while I agree with most of what that statement says, I still think this argument that Father Son and Holy Spirit is God's personal name is barking up the wrong tree to get at the essence of who God is as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  4. Joelle, I heartily agree with you re: Robert Jensen, but right now I don't have time to go into it!

    did a whole paper on this in sem -- about how the most important thing that the Trinitarian formula does is name a relationship.