Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Why Bother?

Dogmatic theology is more than a little out of fashion these days. Not only is it considered bad form to tell someone that their theology is wrong, there is a general bias against saying that your own theology is right. Right and wrong just don't seem to be good categories to apply to theology. As a result, the whole enterprise of theology has come under suspicion.

So within this sort of environment, why would anyone study the doctrine of the Trinity?

Let me begin by saying that I agree that right and wrong are not especially good categories for evaluating theological statements. That's not to say that I am a "relativist" or that I think one theology is as good as another. I most definitely do not. But I am keenly aware that (1) there is an infinite gap between theology and what theology is trying to describe, (2) language isn't a particularly reliable medium for capturing even human ideas and (3) our cultural, historical and social context has enormous influence on how we think, perceive and communicate.

I am also sensitive to the fact that theology separated from the practice of faith is useless or worse. Jesus said that the world would know us by our love, not by our pure doctrine. He meant for us to be Christians, not theologians. And on the surface, the doctrine of the Trinity seems not to contribute much to loving our neighbor. In fact, the history of the doctrine as a weapon with which to drive out the heterodox is quite ugly.

So again, why would I embark on a study of this doctrine?

For one thing, I have found to my delight that the doctrine of the Trinity does have much to say to us about loving our neighbor (and, of course, loving God). But beyond that, it has to do with my understanding of being a member of a community of faith.

What I mean is this: I belong to a community of faith. I have, for various reasons, accepted the faith of that community and am constantly in the process of making it my own. There are certain things that community tells me that I can't quite reconcile with my experience of the world, but because I have accepted the faith of the community, I do not simply reject these doctrines -- I take them under advisement and consider throughout my faith walk where they might fit in and what they might mean. My experience has been that quite often I do eventually come to understand these things in such a way that they become part of my own personal faith.

This is my reason for studying the doctrine of the Trinity. It has been seen as very important to my predecessors in the faith. They've died (and killed) for it. So, whether I ultimately make it my own or continue to take it under advisement, it behooves me to find out what it's all about.

Continue to "The Ultimate Answer"
Go back to "Preface"


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