Women and the Trinity
For most of us, faith development is a process. We grow in wisdom and stature and favor with God. As a Christian women I know that my consciousness about the feminist agenda has evolved in stages also.
First, I became aware of the generic language. Words like “mankind”, “brotherhood”, and the overused pronoun “he” was supposed to describe all of humanity. IT was clear that they contained a masculine bias. Little girls grew up hearing those words literally and scaling down their self-image. I decided that even if I was not personally offended by these terms, inclusive language was a matter of justice. Language both reflects the way we think and informs what we think. That was stage one in my feminist journey.
Secondly, I began to be concerned with the language in which we use to describe God. If Christians insist that God be without gender, why do we call God “he” at every turn? God is personal. The very meaning of incarnation informs us that the God whom we know in Jesus Christ cares about us and loves us like parents, our friends, and our special others. Yet I have never met a “person” who was neither male nor female. It is clear that the understanding of God as objective force or philosophic idea was not an aspect of Christian theology.
From all these thoughts I have come to think about God in the aspect of the Trinity. I am convinced, like many others before me, that Trinitarian theology captures some of the unique message of the gospel and expresses certain understanding of God that are consistent with women’s experience.
On one level the Trinitarian formula for God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is totally unacceptable –an old man, a young man, and a dove. The words are redolent of hierarchy and patriarchy. Furthermore, Trinitarian theology is hierarchical. Implying that all of creation is ordered from the top down, such theology can justify oppressive political and social systems. It can be also argues that the doctrine of the Trinity violates the unity of God, calling on Christians to worship three gods instead of one.
The first source to which Christian theology looks for it’s teaching is the New Testament. It is the New Testament, which unfolds the divine plan introduced in the Old, and it is by the New Testament revelation that the Old Testament revelation is interpreted. For this reason all Christians theologians have made the New Testament their primary source for data in constructing views of God and His relation to the world. We must place all theology in context. As the Old Testament affirms, God is incomparable. Isaiah writes that we dare not make our God out of gold, or carry the divine around in a neat package to sit here or stand there. God reminds Israel, and all peoples, that “I am God and there is no other, I am God and there is none like me.”
The doctrine of the Trinity lies in the New Testament rather in the form of allusion than in express teaching.
The early Christians agree that it was essential to explain the relationship between Jesus and God. Yet their assertions about Christ raised questions about the unity of God. Trinitarian theology provided an important solution; it kept Christians from backsliding into superstitious polytheism, but it also prevented Jewish monotheism from undermining the significance of Christ Christianity has not been content simply to speak of the one God of Jewish monotheism, whether imaged predominately as a male or occasionally given “feminine” characteristics as well. Building on ancient concepts of the divine as a community of person, the doctrine of the Trinity had been developed.
The distinctive contribution of Christianity was not monotheism, but a Trinitarian understanding of God which recognized difference in the work of God in history, and also maintained the unity of God But some would argue that speaking about the trinity expressed belief in one God who is not a solitary God but a communion in love marked by overflowing life.
Another idea concerning the Trinity involved history. The Trinity allows the God-concept to enter into history. One can use the Trinity to span past, present, and future. The “Father” can be seen as the Old Testament, or “patriarchal foundations of Christianity, the “Son” or “Word” as the new foundation on which Christianity presently stands, and the “Spirit” as the ongoing dynamic that brings in the future.
Two words have been used historically to speak about the Trinity. One is the Latin word, “persona”. God is three persons in one nature or substance. In Trinitarian theology, unlike today’s word, the “persons” are three different characterization of one dynamic actor. Thus there is one God who is being composed of 3 individuals, The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all of whom share in the same substance or essence.
The second word is the Greek word, “hypostasis". This points to the individual existence of a particular nature.
The first refers to how the One God is known, as when we speak about God the creator redeemer, and sustainer. These words describe God’ work in the world. But this economic definition of a triune God fails to express the Trinitarian truth that there is one God existing in community. This is the view of the Trinity as immanent, the way in which God embodies the very nature of reality as relational or communal.
As children of God we experience God’ love in many ways, and we believer that we are created in God’s image. Therefore, we need both “economic” and “immanent” understandings of the triune God. This is where women’s experience and the trinity come into to play with each other.
In a one study it has shown that women, unlike men, find their identify in relationship. Furthermore, she noted that women’s relationships do not follow pattern of hierarchy.
Some theologians who value Trinitarian theology insist that what is most important about the belief in a triune God is not that we see God in thee ways, but that we understand God as a dynamic community. Within the triune God there is a special energy which expresses the love of God experienced in Jesus Christ.
All who have fallen in love know this reality. A friendship between two people may “exist" for years, the relationship is there, but it is static. Then, suddenly it changes, and the interpersonal situation comes alive with intense emotion and empathy. Lover and loved are one. Individuals shine and actually discover themselves in love of the other. Their caring is so deep and full that it spills over into the lives of family and friends, and we cannot be in their presence without being touched by that love.
The doctrine of the Trinity erodes the monarchical and patriarchal power of monotheism. When God is no longer viewed as solitary and stark unity, or absolute unrelated personality, we are able to live with – not just fall before- our God.
Understood in this way, t he doctrine of the Trinity sets forth radical ethic of justice and care very similar to the ethic that psychologist see within women’s lives. It is based on a vision that the self and the other should be treated as equal worth; that despite difference in power, things should be fair; that everyone should be responded to and included and that no one should be left alone and hurt. It sees morality as a problem of inclusion rather than a balancing of claims. It sets up standard of nurturance, responsibility and care.
Women have experiences that lead them to understand God as community and to share an ethic that measures strength in terms of relationships. Just as the love of human lovers sometimes invades our lives with its passion, so God’s community will not let us rest. “Christ came to heal, reconcile, and invite the world to enter freely and fully into the divine life.” We are called to be faithful to the dynamic reality of the love of the triune God.
To sum up, Theology seeks one general word for the three, however. It cannot be Father or Son or Spirit, for these words name what is distinctive; there is only one of each. It also would not be right to say there are three essences for that would deliver to us more than one God. In the end it is legitimate to say that there are three person, provided that this be understood as mystery and not in any usual or known sense.
When it is asked three what, then the great poverty form which our language suffers becomes apparent. But the formula three persons was coined not in order to give a complete explanation by mean of it, but in order that we might be obliged to remain silent.
Word Count: 1480