Greater Communion


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If God is a Trinity of Persons, and wants us to know this, why make it so impossible to understand?

If God is a Trinity of Persons, and wants us to know this, why make it so impossible to understand? Furthermore, if entrusting oneself to Jesus is all that’s necessary to inherit eternal life, isn’t belief in the Trinity and discussion about it a bit superfluous? Or, isn’t it sufficient to believe that God is a Trinity without having to understand it?
In some ways, this is the equivalent of saying, “If it’s important to know algebra, why does it have to be so impossible to understand? Furthermore, if entrusting oneself to Jesus is all that’s necessary to inherit eternal life, isn’t studying algebra a big waste of time? Or, isn’t it sufficient to believe that algebra is important without having to study it?” Granted, there are some things that are true of the study of mathematics that are disanalogous to the study of God; but nevertheless, the point to emphasize is that knowing God as Trinity requires work and effort. It is a crude sort of student who demands that algebra be reduced to arithmetic in order for him to understand it rather than work hard at raising his knowledge of things to comprehend algebra. The same is true for the Trinity. Just because it challenges the mind beyond its capacities doesn’t mean it cannot be understood nor that there is no benefit in the pursuit. In the truest sense, it requires devotion—devotion in study and devotion in prayer. Without an ardent zeal for a full understanding of things—”unless you seek Me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”—neither the pursuit of algebra nor the pursuit of God will deliver much.

If entrusting oneself to Jesus is all that’s necessary to inherit eternal life, then perhaps belief in the Trinity and discussion about it is superfluous, at least with respect to salvation. One could also point to history for examples when Trinitarian debate led to pointless philosophical speculation and even tragic death at the hands of well-intentioned theological factions. But if Divinity is a Trinity of persons, and Jesus is Divine, doesn’t this Trinitarian backdrop become relevant for understanding who Jesus is and what He is all about? The letters of John, for example, state that “God is love.” Does it make a difference whether we understand this love as Trinitarian? as a love between a Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Spirit? all of whom exist in a perfect, consummate oneness of life and love? a Divine love that—through Jesus—all of humanity is invited to participate in and enjoy forever and ever? beginning now? a love through which all things—in heaven and earth—will be transformed in accordance with? Contrary to the sentiment above, it is by focusing on the “communion”—the oneness of life and love—that all are invited to participate in through Jesus that the “reunion” that takes place in him discovers its full meaning and place!

It is, therefore, not superfluous to believe in the Trinity or discuss it. It is the substance of the Divine story made manifest in Jesus Christ. To ignore it or strip it away is to lose perhaps the most important context for understanding Jesus’ mission and movement in the world. He came that we might have life and have it abundantly. But that life is grounded in his life, a life which itself is grounded in a Trinity of persons. To accept Jesus’ invitation is, therefore, to participate in his life—a Trinitarian life—filled with an abundance that salvages the broken heart of humanity and mends it with its own, life-giving pulse; a pulse centered in a single heart shared by Father, Son, and Spirit. If there is any superfluity here—to play with the Latin etymology for ‘superfluous’ (i.e., “running over”)—it is the Divine superfluity that is so full of loving-kindness it fills up the devoted soul and makes its cup “overflow.”

What advice do you have for others looking to pursue a degree in Theology, Philosophy, or Bible?

You are choosing to study two of the most important subjects to know. But you should do your homework by reading up on various professors you’d like to study with before applying to a school. These are the mentors who are going to help shape and refine you as a person. The more you know about them, the better you’ll know which professors and which program will be the best fit for you. You may also need to check and make sure that the professors you’d like to study with are taking on more students and don’t plan on retiring at the time you join the program. Both of these fields—like many others in academia—are filled with good and bad professors. So do your homework. Read their works. Find out about the programs. And then do what you need to do to apply for them.

Second, just because you are studying two of the most important subjects to know doesn’t guarantee that others will value the degree as much as you do. The Humanities, as a whole, gets less funding and less attention than the more profitable fields of study (e.g., Business, Medicine, and other fields of Science). Expect to be overlooked. Expect others in academia to look down on you. Expect friends and family members not to understand the ‘utility’ of your decision to pursue an academic discipline that—at least in their minds—shares the same space with starving artists and musicians. Realize that there is a healthy dose of truth in their sentiments. Do not expect to get a job in academia, but don’t give up trying if that’s what you intend to pursue. You will likely have to diversify your skill-set some and do things along the way to earn money and pay the bills. At the end of your journey you may even have to consider using your knowledge in a career you never originally envisioned for yourself. All of this should come as no surprise. The world will never cease to be a place where newcomers have to both produce original work and find creative ways to market it to others. You will have to chart a course for yourself that helps define your niche, aligns with your passions, and connects with others who are interested in hearing what you have to contribute. Just keep at it. For you have the most to give to a world that so frequently loses—but occasionally rediscovers—its lifeblood in the Humanities.