Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 11)

Dear Eric,
I'm afraid that I just can't agree that the Doctrine of the Trinity isn't all that important. I think that not only is the doctrine important, but is absolutely foundational to Christianity. Moreover, I don't believe that attempting to correctly understand the doctrine and to avoid serious errors about it can be constituted "over-analysing" it at all. For one thing, we are made as rational beings--possessing intellect. It's a part of what makes us the image of God. Now, the goal of the intellect is Truth. Since God is absolute Truth, we can hardly be accused of being overly analytical when it comes to trying to understand that Truth--even though here and now we may never fully succeed. We would be denying one of the very fundamental parts of what it means to be human if we didn't try.

That is not to say that everyone is equally equipped to plumb the depths of theological mysteries. I do think one can have a wonderful relationship with Jesus without ever delving deeply into the mystery of the Trinity (so long as he believes in It despite never "over-analysing" It). However, the problem is when someone offers an erroneous understanding of the Trinity. It can lead to significant problems in the rest of his theology. It can be a slippery slope between worshipping Jesus without thinking too deeply about Who He is, and ending up worshipping the wrong Jesus. A Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness could make a similar claim to yours, that they have a relationship with Jesus without ever thinking too deeply or "over-analysing" Who He is--but Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are wrong precisely because they deny the Trinity. The relationship that a Mormon or a Witness has with Jesus, is with the wrong Jesus.

As to your point about Saul, my point was that the "evil spirit" may very well not have been what we associate with "evil spirits" such as Jesus cast out of people in the Gospel. Even if it was, though, the point is that God did not send it to cause Saul evil, but to bring him to an ultimate good. That is, because of this evil spirit, Saul was ministered to by David, upon whom God's Spirit rested. Saul had the choice to accept David and find healing, but eventually he rejected even this gift from God.

It's similar to 2 Corinthians 12:7ff, where Paul writes about his "thorn in the flesh". It is described as being a "messenger from Satan", but it was sent for Paul's good--namely, to keep him humble, and to teach him about the all-sufficiency of God's grace. So even though it seemed "evil" to Paul, it really was good for him. Again, seeking one's good doesn't always mean doing nice things for them. The only reason that God allows evil is so that a greater good can result.

I completely agree with you that true is always true and false is always false. I would never, ever deny that. It's what I've built my life around. The problem is that you preface this maxim with the disclaimer that you're open to any understanding of God, even if that were polytheism. Yet you desire to argue so vociferously with my attempt to provide you with the historical, traditional teachings of the Church on the Holy Trinity. On the one hand, you claim to seek the truth, and on the other, you act utterly resistant to "prejudicing [your] mind" as you call it, by being humble and teachable enough to learn the truth from those whom Jesus entrusted with the task of passing it on to us.

You claim that your goal is a relationship. That's my goal, as well. That's what the Catholic Faith is all about--leading us deeper into that relationship with Jesus. That's why it bothers me so when people suggest that the Church stands in the way of a relationship with Jesus. The very opposite is the case. Since becoming Catholic, I've only experienced my relationship with Jesus grow stronger and more intimate.

But dogma is not antithetical to relationship, as you seem to think. A dogma is just an expression of truth about the one with whom we are in relationship. Just like there are true things and false things about my wife, and it's important that I know them, so there are true things and false things about God, and it's important to know them, too.

If someone came up to me and tried to assert that my wife was blonde, blue-eyed, and from Norway, I would know instantly that they've got the wrong lady, because their description is not true. If we view the dogmas about God as being like a physical description of my wife--that is, identifiers to make sure we've got the right Person, then we see why we need to at least have an understanding of the basics of dogmas, and know who has the authority to proclaim them. Just as I know my wife more intimately than anyone else on earth, so the Church, the Bride of Christ, knows Him more intimately than anyone else. The intimate details that I know about my wife are just like the Church's dogmas. They were revealed by the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and passed on down to the bishops throughout every age, through a relationship with Jesus.

And just as a person who doesn't know my wife's hair colour (for example) can't claim that they really know her or have even met her, so a person who has contradictory teachings about Jesus than His Bride, cannot really claim to be in a relationship with Him, can they?

Yours truly,

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)

No comments: