Friday, December 01, 2006

Christianity in One Word

D.L Moody the famous 19th Century American evangelist was once asked to sum up the Christain faith in one word. What do you suppose he said? Actually, if you were asked this same question what would you say? It's tricky when you are only allowed one word, particularly when brevity is not your strongest card as in my case.

I have been sorting out the Trinity this week. I stand in a long line of theologians down the ages who have sought to explain our three in one God and I am confident that in 2500 words I should finally get it all sorted out. Gregory, Augustine, Barth, Rahner and then at last Cookie comes to town with the answer. Phew! Sadly I fear this may not be so. I had tea this week with a wise retired Vicar who told me that pretty much every illustration of the Trinity is heresy and if he were setting an exam question he might take the various illustrations ( ice, the architect, the electric fire, egg, the shamrock etc) and ask students to demonstrate where the heresy lies.

The only thing I have been able to fathom is that my God is a God of relationship and relationship cannot be a solitary thing. Trinity is about relationship and we need someone else for relationship. C. S Lewis tells of the death his lifelong friend Charles Williams. They had been part of a drinking and thinking club that met regularly for beer and conversation in the Eagle and Child in Oxford with Tolkein as their third member. Lewis expected to have more of Tolkein once Williams was no longer with them but somehow he found he had less. He writes:

'In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him 'to myself' now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third , and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend'

Trinity allows us the opportunity to get caught up in the actions of God. Brian McClaren uses an expression I like, 'falling into God' , and perhaps that is what Lewis is hinting at. 'Three by a fourth' but only if we qualify as a real friend. Friends with God now that would be a thing wouldn't it(John 15:15)? So perhaps Trinty allows us, by grace, to join in with what God is up to. Each of us a fourth to God's three. And the real friend to us is Jesus hanging on the cross inviting us in, beckoning all to come, to join and to see.

Do you want to know what D L Moody's word was? 'Others'. Now I think about it, that works rather well as word to sum up the Trinity. Thank you Dwight.

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