Monday, October 12, 2009

On Johnson's Feminist Trinity: Consonance


“The circular dynamism within God spirals inward, outward, forward toward the coming of a world into existence, not out of necessity but our of the free exuberance of overflowing friendship.”

One can understand Trinity not as a noun or even as an adjective but as a verb or perhaps as Verb. God is not Trinity but is like Trinity insofar as God, in fact, Trinities. God repeats Godself both to God and to creation. That is what God does, not in a modal and thus ontological sense but in the phenomenological and thus, yes, Trinitarian sense.

God loves, and God loves, and God loves and together they are not one love but three loves; we rock in the three waves of God’s fathomless devotion, the ocean that is God-for-us. We are splashed, created and re-created by God’s love as God’s love. This is the sense of it, yes? My love is my act, my disposition and my being-toward a person and also that person him or herself, who beings-back-toward me. We begin a letter saying, “My love,” and close by writing, “Love, ….”

We would be loved back. Love is narcissistic, not in the sense of self-absorption but in the sense of self-involvement. Even in love, we cannot stop knowing ourselves because it is through knowing and comprehending ourselves that we know the beloved: “Oh, that’s just like that time…” But the beloved is not the self and so one encounters limitations: “I can’t believe you just did that!”

All of this is not to go astray from the Tripartate creed but is instead to ask the question: What happens when God Trinities? We know that this is love, that God is love, but do we know what love is? What love does? The scandal of transcendence and immanence is not that God exists in confounding mathematical puzzles but that both transcendence and imminence pervade the very fabric of our lives, our loves.

We are in the image of God but not as the image of God; humans are not what happens when God looks into a reflecting pool, but humans are what happens when God looks into the pools of our beloved human eyes. God must see his handiwork “Before I formed you in the womb…” but must also be surprised: “Why are you hiding from me?”

This should not be difficult to understand. We are present to each other and know each other as friends and lovers but never know each other all the way down, to the very toes. We know each other as mystery revealing itself, as simultaneously self and other, or if you prefer different language both as promise and as secret. Would the love of the Trinity seem so sweet?

“I and the Father our one,” and “Only the Father knows the hour.” Perhaps, yes? Or perhaps as Molly Bloom would have it: “yes I said yes I will Yes.” God’s Trinity-ing or Trinity’s God-ing thus becomes the threefold affirmation of both creation and God as good, very good, and very very good without any goodness being quantified but only repeatedly emphasized. Who, after all, would measure a wave? One only listens for the sound of each, both like and unlike the others.

We are rapt. This is what relation, what being-for does, doesn’t it? We engage the paradoxes of love, of self and other, similarity and alterity, secret and promise not by negating any side in binary elimination but in taught penetration: we tell more intimate secrets and make more abiding promises, even extravagant ones that seem quite dubious in retrospect: “this generation will not pass away until all these things…”

What happens when humans love is that humans become unhinged: we act strangely, we are not ourselves and are in considerably less control. What happens when God Trinities is that God becomes unhinged in love. God makes promises. God gets passionate. God gets pledged, betrothed. “Batter my heart, Three-Personned God,” writes John Donne perhaps to invite a rape but perhaps also to signal that he is finally ready to participate.

Because this is the problem, yes? “No greater love hath he…” but the history of humanity is the history of refusing to be caught up in the love of God. The history of Trinity, on the other hand, is the story of God’s declining to accept our resignation, our returning of the ticket, as Mr. Karamazov would have it. So what happens when God Trinities? Everything, of course. Or, at least, everything that matters, ever has mattered, or ever will.


Monica said...

Finally read these two Trinity posts. Would have to re-read & proably talk to absorb as fully as ideal. But feel blessed & excited by what I have read.

You, and I suppose those whose writing you're responding to, move consideration of The Trinity out of the all too dominant dry, incomprehensible, dogmatic, cerebral box and into a consideration of the meanings and dynamics of it on a more meaningful, lived level, appropriately blending a sense of both practical and philosophical sorts of perspectives.

I suspect I'd get further insight into the meanings of Trinity if I investigated the concept of 3 or trinities in contexts other than specifically Christian ones...which basically you've started on here. (You have to know another religion to know your own seems relevant to me.)

What you've said really seems to help. It may (or may not) eventually prove to be an important piece of a resolution for me. But I still want to think more about an issue that has bothered me. I'm fine with God as Trinity as far as that goes. But why does Trinity seem to be the be all end all within Christian circles? As you've said related to Trinity, we DON'T have a handle, none of these trinities will work as the final complete answer. Likewise, is Trinity a final complete answer? Or at least is it as final and complete an answer as our Christian tradition in its dominant expressions would tend to have us believe?

Finally, I really like your proposals for varied and multiple Trinities in the 1st post. Some of it makes me chuckle and it might be tempting not to take it seriously. But I do take it seriously and I think you would want it to be, at least in general concept. The idea of not repeating the same Trinity reminds me of course of the Hebrew/ OT practice of not saying the name of God. I wonder now if God being beyond all names had anything to do with why they didn't speak the name.

Anyway, how do we make this expansion of trinity concepts/expressions more practical? How do we live this more? How do we live it enough to ingrain it in how we think of God and how our children think of God? I can think of pretty immediate and pretty personal examples of how deeply ingrained our limited concpets & limited vocabulary for God are. With so much working against us, how do we move beyond that? How do we express and live this more fully in liturgy, in faith community, in Judeo-Christian society, in life beyond our own personal private spirituality? I think it would be good on so many levels to be able to do so.

Curious Monk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curious Monk said...

thanks monica,

the concept that's coming through in my first trinity class (yes, there are three) is not that, thankfully, trinity is NOT the be all and end all of Christian theology (it's been neglected for hundreds of years at a time)...

but that it is the beginning of christian theology. it's practically the first thing that christians did thinking about their faith. now some think that because it is the beginning it is the rule of law that you must follow...

but i think that it's more of the grammar of the language that Christians use to talk about God. i consider it an invitation to make my own sentences. i love that it confounds our understanding. i love that the mystery of trinity is the bond of our common creedal faith. it's not a final answer. but i do think it is the first answer.

i love your idea of incarnating it. some say we already do incarnate it in the form of mind and body and soul, that we are ourselves deeply trinitarian.

one scientist has proposed that the three dimensions of length and depth and width form a kind of trinity; matter space and time might also work.

and i'm reminded, too, of the monks who would drain their glass in three gulps to be mindful of the trinity. i'd love to hear your own ideas on how we might make or become aware of the trinity as an incarnate part of our lives.

ps. the consonance/ dissonance series is all from my trinity class, so if you're interested in further reading...

Monica said...

Thanks for the response. Helpful information. I see there is another Trinity post which I will read (though not necessarily right now.)

Looks like your classes are keeping you busy - lots of writing on various topics, no doubt preceeded by lots of reading. Assuming its not overwhelming, you must be having a great time!

About incarnating the concept of trinity in various ways...I hope I can find time to give that some focus. I have a project started, which I hope will gain momentum and more participants, that involves considering all elements of the Sunday morning service and evaluating it in multiple ways in order to generate and exeriment with ideas about how to make the service more engaging to a wide range of people. This trinity consideration could be a piece of that. I'd be more than happy to share more about that if you have the time and interest at any point.