Friday, September 30, 2011

The Trinity and the Existential Paradox of Reality

From Epistemics of Divine Reality (2007, 2011)

pp. 213-214

The Trinitarian perspective of the Divine as Triune (Unity in Trinity) and the image of God in man as a social unity of plurality (‘male and female…multiply…have dominion’) has been seen as one way of resolving this existential dilemma of unity-plurality. The Divine Community created the human community in its own image of unity in plurality, a concept that cannot be explained fully in either rational or empirical terms. The existential element that harmonizes the paradoxical senses is the divinely rooted gift of Love. Love is neither rational nor irrational, it is trans-rational, it is spiritual (‘the fruit of the Spirit’). It flows from Divine Nature, the Trinity, and resolves the confoundedness of sin-stricken humanity.

Sin brings confusion,[1] according to the Bible, because of its revolt against relationships for the sake of the ego, that wants to be autonomous. It begins with a revolt against the Divine Community, which also means a revolt against community. As a result the unity-plurality lose existential harmony. Confusion is related to the experience of shame. Shame is the sense of disharmony between self and community. Shame is the result of spiritual lovelessness, of the hesitancy of transparency, the emotional awkwardness of unrelatedness. According to the Bible, the permanency of inner disharmony owing to the presence of sin and the factuality of total depravity rationalizes shamehood. Shamehood can only be dispelled by the experience of infinite death. Dignity can only arise in the New Creation. Thus, shame is not sinful, since it is the existential emotion arising out of the in-built failure to harmonize the dilemma of the sense of unity and plurality within the community through spiritual love. Shamelessness is sinful, since it is the suppression of a justified metaphysical sense in revolt to the harmonizing gift of Love. Shamelessness is Love crucified. Romans 1: 18-32 tells that shamelessness is characterized by the sacrifice of the metaphysical for the physical, by the obfuscation of the plural with the real. It can also be the obfuscation of the non-plural with the real. Biblically, however, the real is a harmony of both the plural and non-plural, of the unity-plurality. Thus, the Bible, in essence, attempts to resolve the problem of unity-plurality through Love.


Following is an illustration of how the rational-empirical paradox may be resolved in the biblical revelation of divine reality:

i. Unity-Plurality and Divine Tri-unity. The biblical God is essentially a unity-plurality that possibilizes his relationality. He is not a monad, nor is the God-head made up of three gods. On the other hand, the God-head is a trinity. Accordingly, oneness is the attribute of the three and threeness is the attribute of the one. Thus, the Trinity is seen as a harmony of both unity and plurality, in the sense that the Trinity is both a unity and a plurality. It is not one at the disposal of the other, but one in harmony with the other. The existential bond of the Divine Community is secured by Divine Love. The existential distinction is preserved by personality, the divine is three persons, which is the condition of love.

ii. Necessity-Contingency.  God is essentially a necessary-contingent being which possibilizes his relationality. As necessary, God is absolute; as contingent, the three persons within the Godhead work in unamity and love. There is no egoistic centre. Contingency can be seen within the Holy Trinity in the sense that each person within the Divine Community is related to the other.

The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.

…The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

…the Spirit of truth…shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. [2]

iii. Immutability-mutability. God is essentially immutable and dynamic which possibilizes his relationality. He is the eternally unchanging God. And yet, He ‘comes down’ to meet His people, He ‘visits’ the poor, He walks on the waves of the sea, and discourses with man in His inner being. The Bible begins with an acting God: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’[3] A God who works is a God in motion. God is certainly the God who doesn’t change in essence. However, He is also the God who creates, repents, judges, and saves. The Incarnation is a major example of this. In the Incarnation God did not change in essence but still took on a permanent nature of the human. The Word became flesh doesn’t mean that it was no longer Word but only flesh. The hypostatic union, in this case, secures both the divinity and the humanity of Christ. The noteworthy fact, however, is that the Word became flesh in some point in time and has remained so ever since. Thus, in essence God is unchanging but in His relation He is changing. He is essentially unchanging God who is dynamically active.

iv. Transcendence-Immanence. God is essentially a transcendent and yet immanent being which possibilizes his relationality. God is not only beyond the universe but also in the universe. He is not only Spirit but also the Omnipresent Spirit. He is not only the ‘wholly Other’, but also the ‘wholly Present’; ‘the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I.[4] God is everywhere and yet not everything. God transcends the universe, He is not the universe. In contradistinction to the pantheistic and panentheistic position, the biblical God, in His essentiality, is not affected by any change in the universe since He also transcends it as Spirit.

v. Infinity-finitude. God is essentially infinite and finite which possibilizes his relationality. He is infinitely infinite and infinitely finite. Therefore, the infinitely finite division of space is not devoid of the personal presence of God. God is infinite in power yet He cannot do many things, like He cannot destroy Himself or be the cause of his own destructibility as in the polytheistic myth of Bhasmasur.[5] Also, He cannot sin, nor can He justify the wicked. Thus, He cannot do many things. The infinity of God, further, does not disallow the existence of the world. Neither is the infinity of God prevented by the existence of the world. Moreover, God is also seen as involved in temporal historical time and yet transcending the temporality of historical time. Thus, God is infinite, but not in the material sense, for that would be empirically impossible. He is spiritually infinite in being, power, and knowledge. However, He can involve Himself in the finite spatio-temporal world. He cannot be contained in a temple made of bricks and stones. But He is said to indwell the heart of a believer. Thus, in divine reality the infinite-finite find harmonious co-existence.

A few illustrations of Biblical theologizing by the existential application of the principles of rational fideism have already been given in the section on the subjective dimension of divine epistemics. Hopefully, such applications will eventually serve to unravel an understanding of the divine not just in the objective dimension but also in the subjective dimension. Thus, also hopefully, the objective cognizance of God will be met by a subjective anchoring in Him. And such anchoring will constitute the substantiality of the faith in divine reality which is not of things seen (empirical) but of things unseen. Thus, according to rational fideism, in matters of knowledge pertaining to divine reality, ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’[6] Such a view of faith as not only existential but also rational will finally lead theology into a discovery of both subjective and objective meaningfulness in Revelation

[1] Cf. Daniel 5: 8: ‘O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face…because we have sinned against thee.’ (KJV)
[2] John 3: 35; 5: 19; 16: 13-14 (KJV)
[3] Genesis 1: 1 (KJV)
[4] Martin Buber, I and Thou, p. 79
[5] Bhasmasur, a demon, was given the boon of turning to ashes anything by laying of hands; however, he in turn attempted to lay his hands on the god who gave him the boon which made the god take to his heels to protect himself from destruction.
[6] Hebrews 11: 1 (KJV)

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2007, 2011


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