8 June 2009

Talking with Arians on Trinity Sunday

By some irony, I managed to spend part of Trinity Sunday (June 7) discussing the Trinity with my Jehovah's Witness friends. Part of the irony was that I wasn't even aware that it was Trinity Sunday. It wasn't mentioned during the morning service at our (not-so-traditional Anglican) church. I wasn't expecting the Jehovah's Witnesses to turn up on a Sunday either.

The same two ladies visit me fairly regularly, usually mid-week. We're on first name terms - they're both lovely people, and we find that we have much that we can agree on. They are both ex-Catholics who had never been encouraged to read their bibles until they became Jehovah's Witnesses, so they seem to enjoy discussing scripture with someone who is familiar with the text.

But inevitably the discussion always comes around to the Trinity, and how can one God be three persons? They, of course, believe that while Jesus is 'the son of God', he is nevertheless a being created by God (Jehovah) before the rest of creation. What amazes me is that they sometimes use the same verses to 'prove' their argument that trinitarians use to 'prove' the Trinity. It shows the danger of simply trading verse for verse out of context.

While their arguments don't convince me (and there are certainly many other reasons why I could never become a Jehovah's witness), they have shown me that my own grasp of the doctrine of the Trinity is not strong. It's not that I don't know God as one being and yet three persons, Father, Son and Spirit. My whole Christian experience confirms that idea. But I don't have a firm enough grasp of the theology to say "If this isn't true, then this and this and that must follow."

My reflections on the nature of prayer have also been leading me towards wanting a better grasp of the meaning and implications of the Trinity. I'm beginning to see that far from being an esoteric doctrine best left to the theologians, it's really quite central to the Christian mind and life. I see hints that the Christian life is only experienced in its fullness as the triune nature of God is understood. (Any suggestions on what I might read to broaden my understanding would be appreciated.)

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