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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Implications of the Triune God

After posting quite clumsily my thoughts on the Trinity here. I came across this:

From the April 2007 edition of First Things, Letters to the Editor:

...the nature and possibility of love is inextricably grounded in the Trinitarian nature of the God whom Christians profess. What I mean is the following: If it is true, as Christians and various other monotheists maintain, that God is a loving God, then somehow or other, love must be a characteristic of the essence of God apart from his relationship to anything outside himself defined as "creation." But if God is the purely monotheistic god of Jews, Muslims, deists, or monotheists of whatever stripe, then the only kind of love that could characterise the essence of such a god would be narcissism raised to the power of infinity.

In contrast, in the essence or internal life of the revealed Triune God, consisting of three distinct persons, fully sharing one nature, there are others for each to love and be loved by!

--Thomas J. Kleist
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
via Abu Daoud.

Which further reminds me of a passage from one of my favorite books:

If we take any other doctrine that has been called old-fashioned we shall find the case the same. It is the same, for instance in the deep matter of the Trinity. Unitarians (a sect never to be mentioned without a special respect for their distinguished intellectual dignity and high intellectual honour) are often reformers by the accident that throws so many small sects into such an attitude. But there is nothing in the least liberal or akin to reform in the substitution of pure monotheism for the Trinity. The complex God of the Athanasian Creed may be an enigma for the intellect; but He is far less likely to gather the mystery and cruelty of a Sultan than the lonely god of Omar or Mahomet. The god who is a mere awful unity is not only a king but an Eastern king. The heart of humanity especially of European humanity, is certainly much more satisfied by the strange hints and symbols that gather round the Trinitarian idea the image of a council at which mercy pleads as well as justice the conception of a sort of liberty and variety existing even in the inmost chamber of the world. For Western religion has always felt keenly the idea "it is not well for man to be alone."

The social instinct asserted itself everywhere as when the Eastern idea of hermits was practically expelled by the Western idea of monks.

So even asceticism became brotherly; and the Trappists were sociable even when they were silent. If this love of a living complexity be our test, it is certainly healthier to have the Trinitarian religion than the Unitarian. For to us Trinitarians (if I may say it with reverence)—to us God Himself is a society. It is indeed a fathomless mystery of theology, and even if I were theologian enough to deal with it directly, it would not be relevant to do so here.

Suffice it to say here that this triple enigma is as comforting as wine and open as an English fireside; that this thing that bewilders the intellect utterly quiets the heart: but out of the desert from the dry places and the dreadful suns, come the cruel children of the lonely God; the real Unitarians who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world. For it is not well for God to be alone.
(GK Chesterton)

Friday, July 20, 2007

What to Say to Your Children

Twenty questions parents said were unanswerable.

1.Does God exist?
2.Has God got a beard?
3.Is there life after death?
4.If God made us who made God?
5.What does God look like?
6.Why is the world here?
7.Who created God?
8.Why are people bad to each other?
9.Why are we here? Am I real or is this just a dream?
10.If God is everywhere why do we have to go to church to see him?
11.Why can't we ring God up?
12.Why does Easter change its dates each year?
13.Why is God all around us?
14.Why is there a world?
15.Why is there so much war in the world?
16.Why do we have wars?
17.Why do I believe in one God while my Hindu friend believes in lots and is my God the same as my Jewish friends?
18.Do you know why Jesus wept?
19.Who made the universe?
20.Does God have a mum?

Here's how a Catholic would answer them.


2.Yes, God the Son has a beard. God the Father has no body.

3.Yes. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and promised that we would be with him in his Father's house to live eternally.

4.No one made God. He is self-existent from all eternity.

5.God looks like Jesus Christ. If you have seen him, you have seen the Father, says Jesus.

6.The world is here because it was God's good pleasure to make it. Most of all it was his good pleasure to make *you*, whom he has had in his heart since before the beginning of the world. You were invited into existence so that you and he and all his saints could be happy forever with him in heaven.

7.No one created God. God is the Creator. Everything you see around you is made of "creature stuff", so it's natural to think that everything that is (including God) is also made of "creature stuff". But God is not "made" of anything. God is "eternal stuff". Creatures "have" being that they borrow temporarily from God. God *is* Being.

8.People are bad to each other because they love themselves more than they love God or other people. When you do that, and other people or God get in the way of something you want, you hurt the other people and God to get it. It's called "sin".

9.You are here (and you are very real) because God loves you so much he made you especially for himself (and for us who also love you no matter what, forever and ever). You are here to get to know God, to learn to love him and live out his life in this world so that you can get ready for the perfect happiness of heaven. Jesus is your teacher and helper through his Church, the sacraments, and through the people you love and are loved by.

10.Mom and I always love you no matter where you are, but it's better when we can give you a hug and a kiss and enjoy talking with you. Church is where God talks to us through the Bible. Sacraments are the kisses of God. And the liturgy is the way we learn how to exercise our bodies and souls so that we can go out stronger to meet God in the world and serve him in people.

11.You can. It's called "prayer".

12.Jesus was crucified on the eve of the Passover, a Jewish feast that falls on the first full moon after the beginning of Spring. Easter just follows that same calendar.

13.Because God is infinite. You can't put him in a box.

14.There is a world because God loves beauty and he loves to create, like an artist. He is so full of creativity that no one creature can express everything about him. So he created zillions of things.

15.Because people are hungry for the happiness of God, but they don't want to put themselves after God. So they try to steal that happiness by beating up their neighbors. If that sounds crazy, it's because it is. Sin is basically crazy.

16.See above.

17.You believe in one God because you are blessed to live in a place where the Good News was accepted and took root. The Good News was that God everybody has been looking for had become the man Jesus Christ, died for our sins, and rose from the dead so that we could defeat sin and death. Everybody in the world is seeking him (which is why you are asking these questions). But because we are also limited and (especially because our thinking gets gummed up by sin) people have lost track of him and sometimes tried to make up stories about "gods" who are more like Big People with Magic Powers. Storytelling is a great thing, and even some of the stories reflect some real truths about the real God. But if people start believing the stories to be true, it can cause a lot of problems. That's why God said not to believe in any God but him.

He said that to the Jewish people, who were the first people that he revealed himself to. They are still his special people today. Most Jews don't believe that Jesus (who is himself a Jew) is also God. But though they don't believe in him (often because Christians have been very mean to them), God is still faithful to the covenant (that means "agreement") he made with them and he promises that one day they will realize that Jesus is who he says he is. Till then, we are to love our Jewish friends because they are sort of like our Older Brothers and Sisters since they were the first to hear the word of God.

18.He wept because he was angry at death. He was so angry that he fought it and beat it so that we could live forever.


20.Yes. Her name is Mary.

via Mark Shea

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Way to Hell is Hell

Given that the way to Hell is Hell, as can be evidenced by spending time in atheistic chat-rooms, here is a simple way to avoid eternal damnation. Love, love, love.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
(CS Lewis, The Four Loves)

Three Pastors Life Death and Religion in Muslim Iran

Here is an interesting article from Crisis Magazine about Christianity in Iran.

An excerpt:

In November 1993, not far from ancient Babylon, where Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were pitched into Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, the Rev. Mehdi Dibaj huddled in a Mazandaran Province prison cell praying about how he could defend himself from capital charges. A compactly built 60-year-old man, his short, salt-and-pepper hair bristled above dark, deep-set eyes and bunchy cheeks. His cell contained a cot, a hole-in-the-floor toilet, a line of small snapshots of his four children, and, under the high window that afforded light, a cross fashioned from twisted palm fronds.

Dibaj was accused of being a Christian—more particularly an “apostate,” one who has given up Islam to accept Christianity. Two years earlier Dibaj wrote to his 17-year-old son Yousef, “If we want to walk close with God, we must go into the fire.”

Since Dibaj was imprisoned the first time in 1983 for 68 days, and beginning with his re-arrest in 1984, the Assemblies of God minister had spent almost ten years behind bars. The few visitors he had been allowed, usually at six-month intervals, always came ready to offer encouragement.

The authorities tried their best to break him. Their first approach was to cajole him back into conformity, telling him they knew him to be a good Muslim at heart. He need only sign a paper to that effect and he could go home.

Read the rest of it here.

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