Sunday, 26 May 2013

Trinity Sunday

A day when heresies and errors abound as we find modal, adopt, tritheistic and many other entertaining sermons and illustrations on offer. And what will yours be?
Here's a quick (and light) guide for those consumers tomorrow:

Arianism: Arius, a 4th century priest in Alexandria, held the view that Jesus, being 'created' was therefore inferior to the Father and not eternal. Jesus just isn't God!

Corrective: Creator not created! 'Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.' (John 1.3) Equal (and co-eternal) with the Father, 'I and the Father are one.’ (John 10.30), ‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’(John 8.58).

A 5th century error that Jesus was a normal bloke who was merely 'adopted' through His baptism or as some teach by the power of the Holy Spirit (Jesus was a 'normal' man until he became pentecostal - I've heard it!). His ministry was an example of Spiritual Gifts!

Corrective: The eternal Jesus: ‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’(John 8.58). Jesus, the creator - always was, is and will be: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.' (John 1.1-3). Eternal: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’(Revelation 1.8)

Modalism: Here we have a god who can be but one part of the Trinity at any given time. Creator God - Saviour Jesus and Enabling Holy Spirit. God takes upon Himself the role needed and switches between the three as the needs demand.

Corrective: Take a look at Jesus' baptism: Jesus is being dunked, the Spirit is making an appearance and the Father has the talking part: 'As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3. 16-17)

Tritheism: Here we have all three members of the Trinity making an appearance because they are three separate and individual gods with three characters and desires, actions and roles. All three are but ONE God.

Corrective: ‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.' (John 17. 20-22)

Polytheism: A belief in 'many gods' - an extension of the three god (tritheistic) thinking into many gods of which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are but three.

Corrective: There is only one God, ‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no saviour. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed - I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he.(Isaiah 43.10-13)

So tomorrow, when someone tells you about:
Clover and how God is green with three parts  = Tritheism
or how God is water, ice and steam= Modalism
or like and egg - shell, white and yolk = Tritheism;
God is like a woman who is Mother, Sister and Wife (or Husband, Brother and Son) = Modalism;
God is like a 3-in-one shampoo (cleans, conditions and mends split ends!) = Modalism and/or Tritheism

If we really want to communicate the Trinity - the best bet is to teach that which the Council of Nicea (the FIRST Ecumenical Council - 352AD) taught, and it goes like this:

God is of 'one substance'  person with three distinct persons Of course we can get more into this and head for Nicea (325AD) and get to grips with the 'substance' (ousia) and we find that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one ousios (homo ousious), not similar (homoi ousious), not different (hetero ousios). One substance, three distinct and separate wills - all in accord.

Equal, co-eternal, engaged (fully) in creation, eternal: Three and yet one (and that's where all of the analogies fall and lead us into the error). This little drawing below is often useful here:

And if you need more help - let's call up the services of St Patrick to help us clear things up a little:

We need to stop trying to explain things and start teaching them!

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