Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ridiculous Truth

Once, on a plane, I sat next to a president of a successful software company that provided computer applications for the insurance business. We had a fascinating conversation about his business, and also about the nature of engineering, and problems solving. We also spoke about India, as my father-in-law was from Bangalore, and this gentlemen is also from India. He was a very thoughtful, well educated and obviously intelligent man.

We reached one of those pauses in the conversation where we both retreated into our own space for a few minutes. Then he asked me if I believed in Astrology.

I answered that I really had not thought much about astrology. He then began explaining to me the scientific nature of the discipline and why it is so helpful and valuable. I asked about differences between Indian astrology and the astrology commonly practiced in the states. He did not seem to think there was much difference. This conversation continued on for some time and then ended as the plane landed.

I remember thinking about how odd it is that a man of his education, an engineer no less, would put such faith in such a system. He is obviously trained in western scientific method, and in the kind of analysis and problem solving necessary for an engineer, and yet he believes in astrology. Go figure.

Then it struck me that I am not so much different. I had a conversation recently with another friend, regarding a central doctrine of the Christian faith, that little thing called the Trinity. My friend does not believe that God is three and one. When she started explaining why it doesn’t make much sense to have One God also be three persons, I had to agree with her. It does not. And frankly, this very improbability actually makes the concept more appealing and even more sensible to me.

If one were to invent a god, and make him really really big and powerful, it would be relatively easy to come up with a Simple God (my own term. I’m not sure I like it, but bear with me). But why would anyone ever come up with this concept of Three and One? In some sense, one might take this as evidence (certainly nothing to clinch the case, but evidence nonetheless) of the truth of the matter. So many things in this world are stranger than we might think, and Occam’s Razor notwithstanding, the world is much more complex than we imagine. Now if God actually revealed himself, might there be certain things about Him that are exactly the opposite of what we might expect? No one would invent a Triune God, but a Triune God might indeed reveal Himself as such. The very unexpectedness of it rings true.

Not that astrology is on the same level as the Trinity. Rather, I find that in some ways, I am on the same level as the astrologicalizing engineer.

Not a sound biblical argument, I grant you. Just a random thought I’m inflicting on you, dear reader.


kokomo said...

Interesting conversation and I have to agree with your friend about 3 gods in 1. Pagan worship often included this concept - Egypt in the 2nd century BCE with Horus, Osiris and Isis; Babylon with Ishtar, Sin and Shamash; and Palmyra with moon god, Lord of Heavens and sun god. Obviously people actually DID invent a triune god. Historians agree that Christianity eventually grafted this concept into their own belief system.

Scripturally, I find Hebrews 5:8 interesting in that it shows Christ learned obedience thru suffering. He had to learn something God never needs to learn - obedience. God never has to obey anyone.

This passage also indicates that Jesus, when resurrected did not know everything the Father did - Revelation 1:1 opens saying "a revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him." If Jesus himself were part of a Godhead, would he have to be given a revelation by another part of the Godhead - God? Surely he would have known all about it, since God knew.

In prophecy regarding the resurrected Jesus, Psalm 110:1 shows that God is directing him to sit at his right hand. By doing this, God shows his superiority to Christ and there is no co-equality.

...and then the holy spirit. The creation account shows this was done by God's holy spirit (Hebrew ru'ach, translated breath, wind, spirit) - an active force rather than a being.

Throughout text including 2 Corinthians 6:6, more clarity is given by including holy spirit among qualities such as long-suffering, kindness and knowledge.

How can "improbability" be an appeal when God describes himself as "not a God of confusion."? God HAS revealed himself - as One, the Almighty. Hiding or blurring the distinction between God, Jesus and the holy spirit robs us of the full light of each one's role, who to worship and why.

Dubbahdee said...

Most of this is not really commenting on the post, except for the last paragraph.

I was quite up front that my musings are not an argument from scripture. That's why I'm not going to take up the scriptural (or the historical) arguments here. I will be glad to do that in a different forum. I will ask you here, however, where does YHWH describe Himself as "not a God of Confusion?" It's a familiar phrase, but I'm unable to locate the verse.

Let's assume that it is true, however. For The LORD God Almighty is certainly not confused. Nevertheless, that does not mean that WE cannot be confused about Him. I'm not sure that you actually read my post, or that you got my point before firing off a pre-programmed list of objections to a issue that is not the central point of my post. I was not arguing in favor of the doctrine, so much as musing, asking, reflection on why anyone would invent such a logical contradiction as is presented in the Doctrine of the Trinity (DOT)? Three gods can make sense. One God can make sense. One god with three manifestations can even make sense.

Yet none of those is really Trinity. Tri-Unity. Three and One at the same time. It is admittedly not logical. Yet, like the engineer who buys into astrology, I (and millions of other highly educated people) buy into it. Why is that?

There are surely many reasons that one could list, some more flattering than others. My musings are more about the fascinating phenomenon that some things actually can be more believable for being not logical. I just wonder why anyone who was trying to pull the hearts and minds of the people away from truth ( a big assumption in its own right) would someone invent something as strange as the DOT? I think it would be more likely to work the other way -- you know, let's invent a monogod (again, I don't like the term, but I'm not coming up with anything better at the moment). That's much easier to swallow.

Again, I don't claim that this is a convincing argument, and I do not put it forth as such. It is more along that line of an observation that occurred to my own mind. And I don't think that I am the first. I'm pretty sure that I am borrowing from some source that I have read somewhere in the past. Our discussion simply provoked it's recall. For all the glory and clarity of His revelation of Himself, He remains quite mysterious and shrouded. The Bible certainly contains His revelation to us, yet our ability to understand it is not as simple as one might like to think.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

kokomo, I think you took advantage of the speculative situation in order to make a point of your own. Dave was discussing the oddity of certain beliefs and relating them to reasoning versus mysticism in general. It is rather as if he were playing church-picnic softball and you thought it would be nice to throw a brushback pitch at his head. I think you should apologise.

If you want to actually play hardball on the Trinity versus the various non-trinitarian forms of Christianity I would find it tedious, but not difficult, BTW. I used to argue it often a few decades ago and eventually decided it was a waste of my time. And I'm not sure having the discussion with a person who uses the phrase "historians agree..." would be productive.

On second thought, there are plenty of places you can go online to have that argument, and I'd just as soon not.

kokomo said...

assistant, I definitely see your point and thank you for your honesty.

Since Dave and I have had previous conversations on this topic, I was struck a surprised by the "improbability" factor. He knows this and we have since come to an understanding of why I felt the need to respond as I did and that I did indeed, miss a bit of the point of musings vs. doctrinal challenge.

Dave - a thousand apologies if offense was given.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well, kokes, that was much more kindly said than mine was.