It’s All Made Up Anyway!

“The Holy Trinity’s all made up, anyway!” My friend thought I was joking. I wasn’t and I’m not. I’m not an atheist; I believe in God. I’m even 

Painting by Anthony J. Kelly. Image retrieved from Rev. David Eck’s blog.

trinitarian with a higher sense of the Holy Spirit than many other mainline Christians. Still, it’s pretend.

I perceive a divinity that connects us, that flows through us, and encourages us to lovingness. Our stories and theologies — including trinitarian theology — reveal truths that are beyond the rational, scientific explanation. They are not, nor were they ever intended to be literal, historical retellings of facts. 

Through the Christian biblical narrative, however, God continues to speak. For me, Jesus is,

“the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have really known me, you will also know the Father.” (John 14:6-7b CEB Read this passage in context.)

This is the path upon which God has lured me. This is the only way for me to be the loving, unique person that God created me to be. It is in the life of Jesus, that I enter into a relationship with the love that underpins all of creation. It is in the human Jesus that I learn how to be who God calls me to be.

Jesus functions as a gate for me (John 10: 1-10 CEB). However, just as it is naive and ineffective to expect all children to learn via only one modality (e.g.; visual, auditory, or kinesthetic), it is naive to think that God’s love only opens through one gate. The arrogant teacher is one who thinks there is one — and only one — way to reach all children. This assumes the gifts, skills, challenges, and experiences of each individual is the same. 

Arrogant Christian spirituality, is one that projects its own gifts on all. When we do this we deny the truth reflected in Paul’s writings to the Corinthians. That truth is that as we seek to follow the One, we each have unique roles and gifts.

Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? (1 Corinthians 12: 14-17 CEB Read this passage in context.)

Though Paul wrote to a squabbling community of Jesus followers, to expand this truth beyond Christianity is to hear the voice of God in a new time and place. Paul — and the other authors of the canon — wrote contextually. That is, the biblical writers spoke to specific people in a specific era, place, and culture. When we read and study the texts thoughtfully, communally, and prayerfully, we hear God’s voice for today. We can find truths.

The gospels interpret the life of Jesus as he challenged the prevailing human-defined circle of acceptable behaviors and the people that were worthy of God’s love. The Good News of the unfolding Realm of God (love) is that it is for all of us. God’s love is expansive and extravagant! The One is love. The One, who I call God, reflected in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament reveals an arc of loving inclusiveness and justice for all.

To find God through Jesus, does not require dismissing others. On the contrary, to follow the teachings of Jesus is to engage in loving, respectful relationship with others. Other peoples have stories, metaphors, and narratives that describe their experiences of the One, the divinity that I perceive. Just as the Christian Bible reveals truths, the sacred writings (or verbal stories) of Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Rastafarians, and others reveal truths. They reflect the ways that others have experienced the One I call God. Is it hard to perceive that the mysterium tremendum that is God, might speak to others in ways that make sense to them?

Rather than limiting God, I accept the Trinity as a metaphor that helps me to describe how I experience the One. It helps me to follow the Divine’s call on my life. I don’t need to idolize it into a literal fact anymore than I need Jesus to be the only way to the extravagant, expansive love of God. 


4 thoughts on “It’s All Made Up Anyway!

  1. This post was hard in a number of ways. It is not that I don’t believe in the extravagant love of God. I read a post of yours awhile back where you explained what it meant to be a Christian Universalist, and it was very moving. I have been interested in that philosophy for a couple of years now. I haven’t been entirely persuaded to embrace it, but I do confess that if I were to discover that it really is true I would be ever so happy. My heart says it makes perfect sense, but my heart also is fearful of facing the Lord if it weren’t true. Have you ever read “Hinds Feet In High Places”? If you have you might liken me to Little Miss Much Afraid…I tend to be careful and troubled about many things, but still longing to sit at the Masters feet and let someone else do the dishes.

    I also read your post titled “Tears”…and I was so struck that the hairs stood up on my arms and I almost wept. I felt a witness as I read it. To put it in Biblical terms, I would describe it as a post that “Magnified the Lord” That thing I refer to as “a witness” is a strong conviction that comes over me that persuades me to pause and to reverently contemplate (Isaiah 30:21), because there is the fragrance of Divine Truth throughout the body of the composition. My gardenia might have only one or two flower buds that have opened, and as I pass by I might not see them, but suddenly I become aware that they are there. That is how it was as I read your post on tears.

    This post was problematic for me. Is it okay that I said that?

    1. Of course it is. You are not alone, a lot of people struggle with this concept. Our early teachings stick with us. Consider as you reflect on this the challenge our ancient kindred had as the circle of love kept getting wider and wider. We see it in the emphasis on hospitality and welcome in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). We see their struggle in accepting Jesus’ teachings, healings, and love as it expanded beyond the “worthy” and those within Judaism. Paul’s ministry of love went out to Gentiles. I experience God now calling us to open ourselves up further and accept that Love is not restricted to only one way of perceiving God. (It’s not like most of us still believe in a Deuteronomical theology in which bad things happening to you mean you’ve displeased God. Changing views and God-human relationship are witnessed to us by scripture.) God is creatING and luring us ever-forward to more love and more inclusiveness. Just my thoughts. I don’t intend to be pushy. Your discomfort means something to you. Figure out what it is and then you can decide how to respond to it.

  2. Thank you. I really can identify with your reply.

    I understand the emphasis of your response to me and appreciate it. There is a verse that says all scripture is God breathed and profitable for a number of things (I am paraphrasing here). I truly believe that includes both New Testament scripture and Old Testament scripture. I believe that Christians who actually have access to a Bible should study it and revere it as “a lamp unto their feet and a light unto their path”, because it is both their duty and privilege. I also believe that we should read with a humble seeking heart that acknowledges that the ability to interpret and to live accordingly comes from the Lord as expressed in these words:

    “For ‘Thine’ is the kingdom and the power, and the glory ‘forever'” (I take that literally.)

    That does not mean that those who do not have access to a Bible are outside God’s fold…outside his love, nor do I believe that those who willingly neglect studying and meditating on the Bible are outside His Love. I will go even further to say that if another book such as the Quran or the writings that are cherished by many world religions contains passages with exhortations to be loving, kind and merciful to others, because God is loving, kind and merciful… then those particular passages are truthful and inspired, too. For example, the Jews despised the Samaritans, but Jesus let the Jews know that He loved the Samaritans, and they were even at times capable of behaving in ways that were much more pleasing to God than the ways that the Jews sometimes behaved. Jesus made that point in the parable of the Good Samaritan who took care of the poor man who had been beaten and left for dead. When He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well it is my understanding that he told her that the worship of the Samaritans contained some error, but they were still very precious to Him and he went out of His way to meet with her and offer her “Living Water”. That is one of my favorite stories. What a precious Savior we have! My heart was saddened (to put it mildly) when I read these words in your post on tears:

    “It is an unlikely and likely story.

    Unlikely because too many Christians have learned the false doctrine that G-d’s love is limited to those who profess Jesus as savior and turned love into hatred. Unlikely because a people who have endured millennia of persecution, including genocide, must be cautious of those who are not one of their own.”

    I was sad because I have come to know all too well how true your words were. I myself have at times possessed that hatred, although I wasn’t aware that it was hatred. Even at my current age (46) l still catch myself having thoughts that are proud and hateful. Pride is hateful. Assuming that we “have a higher sense of the Holy Spirit” than others when only the Lord Himself is capable of searching, knowing, and trying the reins (Psalm 139:1-3 and Jeremiah 17:10) is prideful and is not edifying to the ones being judged or to the one doing the judging.

    “I perceive a divinity that connects us, that flows through us, and encourages us to lovingness. Our stories and theologies — including trinitarian theology — reveal truths that are beyond the rational, scientific explanation.” I agree with this.

    “They are not, nor were they ever intended to be literal, historical retellings of facts.” In some cases I would agree, but in a “small” measure. At one time I would have emphatically disagreed.

    I was trained up to take it all literally. From the time I was 12 or 13 I was trained to interpret all scripture the way those in all little country Pentecostal churches interpreted scripture. Then in 1999 I came to believe that the salvation of a person’s soul was permanent. Then for about five years I began to interpret scripture the way most Landmark Missionary Baptists interpret it, except there were some things about the way they interpreted “the Church” and “The Bride of Christ” that made me and my husband feel uncomfortable to say the least, so we left. Then we studied the with reformed 5-point Calvinists where every single thought had to be scrutinized through the Westminster Larger Catechism. I discovered that TULIP can be either totally wonderful or totally horrible. It all depends on how you interpret Limited Atonement. If you read Romans 5:18 and interpret it the way I did you would have to conclude that the Lord limited the atonement to the entire human race (every human that was ever conceived) it was wonderful, the perfect example of a perfect and unfailing love that saves to the uttermost. Any other interpretation meant double predestination and was horrifying. Unfortunately the people who embraced the Westminster Catechism did not interpret Limited Atonement the way I did.

    I have studied so many perspectives over the years, and have come to see that there is much scripture that seems to disagree with other scripture. I was told that the key to proper interpretation was to interpret “hard” scripture with “plain” scripture. However so many Christians disagree about which ones are plain and which ones are hard. I finally came to the conclusion that if all scripture truly is “God Breathed and profitable”, then some of it must have been intended to be interpreted figuratively rather than literally. I suspect that there are some scriptures that you interpret figuratively that I still interpret literally, and that is why I had some trouble with this post of yours.

    Thank you so much for your patience and willingness to respond to me. I look forward to reading more here at your blog.

    Theresa

  3. Oh my goodness…something just hit me…I just had a thought that I have never had before,..this is might be a light bulb going above my head moment. I hate legalism. It is so oppressive. Over ten years ago I had a light bulb moment. I was reading in the book of Galatians about how the Law was a school master:

    “23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

    24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

    25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

    26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:23-26

    That was so freeing for me. I quote that passage often. Still, I am no scholar, have had no formal theological training, attended no seminaries. There is probably much you could tell about who the Galatians were.

    A few minutes ago I found myself wondering if the teachings and rituals of other world religions, especially the ancient ones, that are practiced and observed could be “types” of schoolmasters for those others that the Lord would also bring:

    “16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 10:16.

    …Wow.

    I apologize for commenting so much on this post. I am so glad though. I believe I have been helped by it.

    Theresa

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