Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Trinity (triune unity)

I spend a fair amount of time in the company of Muslims these days;  indeed, at present, by an accident of the seating-chart, I probably spend more time in close propinquity with Muslims, than with Christians, Hindus, Jainists, Jews, and Zoroastrians combined.   (Lotta LDS, though.  Plus all that could change with the next re-org, as my next podmates might be Zoroastrians.)   There is an effort of good-will on both sides;  my Sunni neighbor points eagerly to passages in the Koran, where good things are promised to ‘believers’ (mu’miniin) rather than specifically ‘Muslims’ (muslimiin).  A kind-hearted man, he hopes to be with me in Paradise, and not to gaze down on me roasting in Hell.  (`Uqbaalak, ya shaykh.)

Now, we Christians know implicitly, that the doctrine of the Trinity is no polytheism:
that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are not at all like Apollo, Zeus, and Hera, say, but more like le père Dupont, at once father, and Frenchman, and fireman.   But to explain this to our Muslim friends, is difficult.   I often have to fall back on saying:  the Trinity is a Christian mystery; it may be true or false (in some transcendental sense of those categories), but it is no descendent, direct or indirect, of the sort of pagan polytheism which stuffed the Kaaba with idols, and peopled the trees with dryads, and Olympus with squabbling gods.  For us as for you, God Himself -- Allah -- Yahweh -- e’en He -- is indeed One.

Yet this unity by no means necessitates or logically entails, that there could be no parts at variance within the Godhead, even to dissension.  (Of course, it may be a truth of the Church, and thus beyond dispute;  I am speaking here only of logic, the only subject in which I have been ordained.)  How indeed could we ever know otherwise (save by some enigmatic Revelation)?  After all:  We are made in His image, and we ourselves are a bundle of contradictions;  and He contains us, as a proper part.  (Additionally, that Eloi, eloi passage would seem to point in that direction.)

[Footnote]  That our heart is riven, was known to the Ancients; further strata of subtlety  were added by Freud.  And just this morning, an interview with a developmental psychologist revealed that (don’t trust me on the details -- something like this) the focusing of visual attention begins in the infant under subcortical control, passing later to the cortical;  and that during the transition, the subcortex is “reluctant to yield control” to the cortex (the formulation sounds highly Freudian), and the infant can, caught between two contending stools, become visually locked -- ‘unable to take his eyes’ off you, is the way it feels to the delighted parent, as if their infant, of previously wandering wit, now seems riveted (doubtless as struck by your own parental refulgence, and throbbing with agapè).   Only, no, suggested the researcher, sadly;  he doesn’t take his eyes off  because he literally can’t.

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