Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's Not so much about a Name but a Relationship and a Purpose

The Holy Trinity, Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I'm still on the Trinity.  Did a little brushing up and really it's not all that hard. 

 It's the will. 

 I thought this was Augustine's idea but it goes back to the Nicene fathers.  Three persons.  One will.  One purpose.  One love.  One desire.  One action.  What the father does, thinks, wants, wills and desires  --the Son and the Spirit think, want, will, desire and even do.  

So even though the dear sainted Martin Luther himself called the godhead Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, that really won't do.  They all create, redeem and sanctify.   

What differentiates the persons of the trinity is not what they do but how they relate to one another.  The Son is not the Father.  The Spirit is not the Son.  The Father is not the Spirit.

Well, they do have some different purposes.  The Father is the incomprehensible God - the Son - the Word, makes the Father comprehensible.  And Augustine said the Holy Spirit was the love between the Father and the Son, the glue that holds them together.  I like the idea of the Holy Spirit being the love we have for God and for each other.  

Does it have to be a Father?

  It has to be a Father or a Mother and Father is what we are stuck with biblically.  The Father cannot be the Creator - the Father creates through the Son and the Spirit.  And more importantly, as many monks fought and beat each other up to defend...the Father begets the Son, the Father does not create the Son.  

It could just as easily be the Mother who gives birth to the Son...but that gets very confusing when you throw Mary into the mix.  And Father is what we have in the scripture.  Nope--I'm sorry it has to be the Father.

And that's really unfortunate.  I think it's only a Father because well Mother would just never go over in those days.  

It's not because of Jenson's crazy convoluted and downright gnostic (not to mention bizarre to my mind) argument about mothers being more connected to their babies than fathers are.  

And it has nothing to do with God having male parts but unfortunately because of all this father language, people really do still in this day and age believe God is a male.

To me that is the problem with all Father all the time.  Not because some human fathers are abusive because God knows there are abusive and absent mothers you ask anyone abused by a father how much respect she has for her mother for either allowing it or being too weak to prevent it.  

 The problem is that people can't seem to get that to say the Father is making a theological statement about the Son's equality with God - the Son is not a creature so he is not created but begotten by the Father.  Instead, they just think male parts!

I kind of gave up on the inclusive language battle years ago because Lord knows there were other battles.  But again in Sunday school last week I got this blank stare when I said "Well you know God is neither male nor female right?  Right?  RIGHT?"  "But Pastor, it's the FATHER"  

It took all the self-discipline I could muster not blurt out "Really - you think God has a penis?  You think God has testosterone?"  

It's such a shame because when we get all caught up in language and what is God's proper name we miss this idea of what makes the Father, Son and Spirit ONE is that they all will the same thing - which is the redemption and salvation of the world.  

And when Jesus prays that we will be one as well --it's not that we will all stop being Lutherans and Catholics and Baptists (though it would be nice if we would stop FIGHTING) - it's that we be united in one will - to love and redeem the whole world. 

So that's probably what my sermon is going to be about.  I'll probably have to leave out the part about God not having a penis but really it does need to be said.


  1. OK, the first 2 paragraphs I get. I think it looses some focus when you get into body parts. I hope to read your finished sermon! Thanks, Joelle.

  2. Oh, what I would have given for you to say, "Really? You think God has a penis?" My youth group kids have probably heard me say that, now that I think about it.

    Then again, as a fellow seminarian once said, "What is gender, anyway?" Which made me roll my eyes at the time, but now that we've had the mother of a transgender child speak at our church, I might be ready to ask: is a penis and testosterone what makes the Father a Father and not a Mother?

  3. But this father/male stuff is what is causing us to loose focus. And sometimes you have to be crude to get people to think about what they are really saying if they insist God must be male.

  4. Oh I know--and now we have transgendered men getting pregnant. It's too confusing for me.

  5. Thanks for this. I think it is very well said, and does make a point that too often gets obscured. It isn't about God being male within God's own self (and see, here even I agree that using a masculine pronoun doesn't work, lol!). It's about the relationship which expresses the one will of this awesome God. Again, thanks.

  6. Oh I think you could argue that God doesn't have a penis because God is love and that means God isn't a dick, right?