God on Monday
‘He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may
participate in the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1.4).
What on earth are we here for? Welcome to the nineteenth God on Monday reflection on purpose!
Explaining the trinity without slipping into heresy is tricky. Commonly used metaphors have significant problems. One is that they generally have components that can be separated: the three-leaf clover; water (liquid, solid, gas); and egg (shell, white, yolk). Egg is a good case in point. In Anglican circles, seasoned vicars who despair at their attempts to explain the trinity often delegate the sermon on Trinity Sunday to their newly-trained curates. The result is generally the proverbial ‘curate’s egg’ – good in parts.
Another problem with such metaphors is that they are static. This is theologically deficient because God is known through action as well as being. But it is also practically deficient for people seeking to live their faith in their daily activity. Theologians trying to help such people have suggested that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit correspond to the work of planning, implementing and evaluating; and to exercising integrity, servanthood and excellence; and to creating, redeeming and transforming.
These suggestions are also good in parts but they fail to do justice to the ministry occurring within the Godhead. Each person in that communion actively and lovingly shares in the being and action of the others - they cooperate, interpenetrate, interdepend and co-inhere. Some early theologians came up with a great word for this: perichoresis. Derived from two Greek words, it means ‘dancing around’. The inner life of God is a circular dance of love that is so spontaneous, free and inclusive that it spills out in the creation, redemption and transformation of the world.
Static views of the trinity miss this centripetal yet centrifugal dynamic and can petrify humans and their relationships. Work patterns can thereby become unnecessarily inflexible, controlling and hierarchical. It is no coincidence that, in seeking to shun such culture, Silicon Valley has led the world in technological innovation.
The spontaneity, freedom and inclusivity that spills out on the Day of Pentecost (see previous reflection Embracing Diversity) provide a glimpse into the triune life of God. They also model what happens to communities when they are so caught up into that divine dance of love that they ‘participate in the divine nature’ (as Peter's epistle puts it above).
Could this be a visionary purpose for the communities we belong to? Just imagine our home, workplace and neighbourhood modelling the love of the trinity! Clever theologians may have convinced weary vicars and wary churchgoers that the trinity is difficult to get right. But love is always right and cannot be heretical. It does not even need words. Yet it is a language everyone understands.
Peter S Heslam, Director of Faith in Business
Some organizations have already found inspiration in the doctrine of the trinity for their approach to management. The Jubilee Centre and Relationships Foundation, both based in Cambridge (UK), are pioneers of this approach.