Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Trying to make up for the lack of blogging. An essay I wrote for a class.
The four modern schisms, as listed in the first essay, are the schism between humans and God, between humans and nature, between analytical reason and affective intuition, and the schism between individual and individual -- the schism of the self. In general, since the fall, relationships of all kinds have been broken. God desires (and has desired from the beginning) to be in unbroken relationship with His creation, and for His creation to be in unbroken relationships with each other. One day He will restore and redeem those relationships. Until then, it is important to look to the Trinity for the healing of contemporary relations. For this essay, I will look at James B. Torrance’s book Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace, and Elaine Storkey’s Origins of Difference: The Gender Debate Revisited.
In Torrance’s book, one of the reasons he gives for the importance of recovering the “centrality of the doctrine of the Trinity in the life of our churches today” is “for a less individualistic anthropology -- an understanding of our humanity and our destiny in the purposes of God’s grace, to be a community of persons enjoying communion with God and with one another.”
While most Christians would have no problem with saying they agree with the doctrine of the Trinity, and the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, they would likely have a problem with trying to understand it or articulate it very well. Most people would not be able to defend its importance to anyone who asked. Which is unfortunate, considering Torrance considers the “doctrine of the Trinity to be the grammar of the church’s faith and worship."
Some of the conclusions that Torrance draws about the uniqueness of each person in the Trinity, and their relationship with each other are helpful in understanding how we can look to the Trinity for some healing in our own relationships. We as humans were created in the image of God, so it only makes sense that our relationships should reflect the relationships within the Trinity. Torrance says that, “to understand what it means to be in the image of God, we must look at Jesus Christ, not at fallen humanity.” The humanness of Jesus sanctifies “our common humanity so that, be we men or women, we can see the dignity and beauty of our humanity sanctified in him.” So instead of looking at Jesus to know what “maleness” looks like, we can look at him to know what “humanness” looks like. This will help in all four of the schisms, I think. Furthermore, “we are meant to interpret our humanity, our male-female relations, in the light of the Trinity. God is love. Love always implies communion between persons, and that is what we see supremely in God. The Father loves the Son in the communion of the Spirit.”
In Storkey’s book, she gives broad historical and biological look at gender differences, and the different ways people have tried to make sense of these differences throughout time. Toward the end of the book, she lists four paradigms found in the Bible to describe the relationships between men and women. The first is difference. We are different from each other...in the way we were created, in the way that we originally sinned (and therefore differing punishments), biologically, the way we are described, etc. The second paradigm is on the other end of the spectrum. We are also similar. “Men and women are both equal parts of the human race. They are more like each other than they are like anything else in creation.” They are both given command over the rest of creation, children are to treat both parents with respect and obedience, they are both able to prophesy, etc. Thirdly, men and women are complementary. “Women and men are not simply the same or different from each other; they are also complementary. They “fit” together; they each reciprocate and fulfill something in the other.” In the New Testament, Paul says that men and women are not independent from one another, and that they come from one another. In the creation story, women came from man, and in procreation, men come from women. It does not imply hierarchy, but reciprocation and completion. The fourth and final paradigm is the importance of union. Woman was created not from the same substance as man, but from the substance of man. In Genesis, it says that when a man and woman are married, they are united as one. Paul in the New Testament says that husbands and wives have authority over the other’s sexuality. We are united in our disobedience, as well as in our redemption. Because of our brokenness, we tend to distort these themes, or to forget one or more of them. We fail to see them as a whole, and as a result, our relationships are not as they should be. When thinking of these four themes, of difference, similarity, complementarity, and union, is it not also very clear that these same word could be used to describe (even if we cannot fully understand) the Trinity? Each person in the Trinity is different: they are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet they are all God, one God. They complement each other and are united in, as the lecture notes say, “a dance.”
To conclude, we were created for relationship. With each other, with our Creator, and His creation. If we look to the relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we will get a glimpse of how we were meant to relate to each other, work together, and love one another. The front of the Autumn 2011 issue of the Priscilla Papers says it beautifully, “We believe that the sole living God who created and rules over all and who is described in the Bible is one Triune God in three coeternal, coequal Persons, each Person being presented as distinct yet equal, not as three separate gods, but one Godhead, sharing equally in honor, glory, worship, power, authority, rule, and rank, such that no Person has eternal primacy over the others.”
Fairfield, Les. PT 725 lecture notes, Trinity School for Ministry, Winter Intensive 2012
Spencer, William David, Ed. Priscilla Papers, Christians for Biblical Equality; Minneapolis, MN; Volume 25, Number 4, Autumn 2011
Storkey, Elaine. Origins of Difference: The Gender Debate Revisited, Baker Academy; Grand Rapids, MI; 2001
Torrance, James B. Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace, IVP Academic; Downers Grove, IL; 1996