A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Me, Myself, and I: Scripture and the Replacement Trinity

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In his book, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, Eugene Peterson discusses the significance of the doctrine of the Trinity in reading Scripture. He writes,
That is why an awareness of what the church has formulated as the Holy Trinity is so important as we come to this book, the Bible. We read in order to get in on the revelation of God, who is so emphatically personal; we read the Bible the way it comes to us, not in the way we come to it; we submit ourselves to the various and complementary operations of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; we receive these words so that we can be formed now and for eternity to the glory of God (pp. 30-31).
The problem, however, is that Trinitarian doctrine rarely informs our hermeneutic.

Peterson notes that another "Triune" formulation has replaced the church's orthodox explication in favor of a "Trinity" that puts the sovereign self at the center of biblical interpretation. "...the three-personal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is replaced by a very individualized personal Trinity of my Holy Wants, my Holy Needs, and my Holy Feelings" (p. 31). The text is read primarily as being centrally about the individual reader. The Bible thus is not fundamentally about the God who acts in history through Israel and Jesus, but about the individual who receives from God whatever the reader feels she or he wants and needs. Again, Peterson states,
The time and intelligence that our ancestors spent on understanding the sovereignty revealed in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are directed by our contemporaries in affirming and validating the sovereignty of our needs, wants, and feelings.
My needs are non-negotiable. My so-called rights, defined individually, are fundamental to my identity. My need for fulfillment, for expression, for affirmation, for sexual satisfaction, for respect, my need to get my own way-- all these provide a foundation to the centrality of me and fortify my self against diminution (p. 32).
The problems with this replacement Trinitarian reading of the Bible are manifold. Among other things such a reading in actuality does not affirm human identity, but undermines it. The Bible insists that human identity can only be found in the God who has created and redeemed us in Jesus Christ and who has determined our purpose in life. In submitting to individual Holy Wants, Needs, and Feelings, human beings lose themselves as the prodigal son who left home in order to find himself. Jesus states in the parable that it was not until the young man decided to return home that "he came to himself" (Luke 15:17). In pursuing his Holy Wants, Needs, and Feelings he had lost himself, for he left his true identity when he left home. When human beings singularly pursue their Wants and Needs and Feelings they discover that they are not truly free, but rather they are slaves to their Needs, Wants, and Feelings-- life lived by the momentary whim.

That is no way to read Scripture, for the Bible is not to be read to affirm our Holy Wants and Needs and Feelings; rather it puts our wants and needs and feelings under the holy gaze of a God who desires to transform our wants and needs and feelings restoring the divine image in us.

That image is most clearly seen in Jesus Christ as witnessed to in the Scriptures.

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