Trinity, and stuff

I got back from Glasgow yesterday evening, teeth all checked (24 hour trip for a 10 minute check-up – private dental care here I come?), and numerous friends all caught up with. Now starts nearly two weeks with no travels, which will be a marvellous novelty.

It was wonderful being back in St Silas on the Sunday night, and the sermon was one of the best I have heard for a long, long time. I didn’t particularly like it because it was spiritually uplifting (though it was): I liked it because it was simply a great explanation of faith, the Trinity, and all we must strive to be as Christians.

Kicking off a series on Ephesians, the preacher Gordon Reid used Ephesians 1 as a springboard for exploring a new relationship with God.

Basically (and you really needed to have seen the excellent accompanying powerpoint slides – though you can at least listen to the podcast), it started with an outline of the three types of Christian: liberal (illustrated as green), evangelical (illustrated as red), and charismatic (illustrated as blue), which were all visualised as thirds of a circle.

Each third was linked with:

  • famous examples (respectively: Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Jackie Pullinger)
  • key motivations (respectively: achieving social justice, winning new souls; seeking spiritual experience)
  • a point of reference which each takes (respectively: creation, Calvary and Pentecost)
  • a part of the Trinity to which it is most closely aligned (respectively: the father, the son and the spirit)

We were told that if one point related to us more personally than the other two, we needed to grow into the other two parts of the circle too: partly through devoting our prayers to all three parts of the Trinity.

Finally, there was a brilliant link between each tradition through the three conversions we all need:

  • from the world (in the liberal part of the circle) to Christ (in the evangelical part) – hopefully an obvious required conversion!
  • from Christ to the church (in the charismatic part), because Christians must not be alone but a part of a bigger body
  • from the church back to the world again, taking the Good News out to everyone else

Together these made the whole picture of the new relationship we should seek with God.

That’s probably not a sufficient or entirely accurate summary, and without the visuals it’s hard to do it full justice. And admittedly, it was perhaps not of much value to someone not yet a Christian.

But for me, the sermon – delivered with great thoughtfulness and humour – helped me understand a whole lot more about why there is a diversity of views among how Christians view the world and view God, and how each perspective has a huge role to play in the relationships we seek with God as individuals and as a church. It’s well worth a listen.

6 thoughts on “Trinity, and stuff

  1. Creationist nonsense? How do you mean?

    The trichotomy made huge sense to me, because I am a very visual person who thrives on diagrams and categorisations as a means of understanding something big, vague or amorphous.

    That said, I can see where you’re coming from regarding Mother Theresa. I don’t know enough about her to say certainly, but perhaps “liberal” is not the first word I would use to describe her.

    Having thought about it a little more, though, remember how the preacher described the liberal part of the circle – all about being conscious of the environment and social justice and that sort of thing?

    Given that, maybe he was meaning “liberal” to refer to liberation theology rather than liberal Christian doctrine, which (confusingly) are quite different.

    So, to attempt to answer your question again with that in mind, I’d say Mother Theresa was perhaps not doctrinally liberal but she was certainly a liberation theologian.

    If you think about the trichotomy that way, Ryan, does it make any more sense?

  2. >>>>> The “we’ll never be evolutionists in that sense” line; giraffes obviously evolved! Bit quibbly I know…

    >>>>Given that, maybe he was meaning “liberal” to refer to liberation theology rather than liberal Christian doctrine, which (confusingly) are quite different.

    Hmm, despite not being as fabulous as SEC clergy, I think even presbyterian clergy know the distinction! And I wouldn’t suggest, though I have my occasional disagreements with them, that evangelicals *aren’t* marked about “being conscious of the environment and social justice” (or at least that there’s no reason that they shouldn’t). Liberals would probably be best describe by the Holy Spirit section (as obviously they talk about the *contintuing* relevation of the Spirit allowing the church to move beyond sexism and homophobia. +Gene Robinson talks about this in this book which is great – got Fr.Gadgetvicar a signed copy! Anyway..). But charismatics had already been given the Holy Spirit slot – indicating the problem with starting a powerpoint-conducive generalisations and then altering the facts to fit.

    >>>So, to attempt to answer your question again with that in mind, I’d say Mother Theresa was perhaps not doctrinally liberal but she was certainly a liberation theologian.

    Hmm, not sure about that. Invoked liberation theology in response to a fairly appaling Deeper sermon recently (ostensibly on “envy”, in reality an attempted theological justification of a in-no-way-Holy culture that benefits the stereotypcial – e.g. middle class – evangelical). Arguably her focus on what she saw as poverty’s spiritual benefits is quite different from liberation theology’s focus on challenging the effects of sin that lead to poverty. But don’t really know enough about her to comment. Always thought it was cool that two of the main liberation theologians are Clodovis and Leonardo Boff – literally, the Boff Brothers! They could have got a job in the circus if the whole theology thing hadn’t worked out :-).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.