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Trinity for non-christians

Discussion in 'Christianity and World Religion' started by Daniel Alievsky, Oct 5, 2013.

  1. Daniel Alievsky

    Daniel Alievsky Junior Member

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    Hello! I'm novice here and ask to excuse me in advance, if I do something wrong.

    I'm a Jew from Israel, my faith is Judaism, but Christianity is interesting for me and I believe that we should understand each other and collaborate. I think that it's very important to contact with Enlgish-speaking Christians, though I don't know this language well enough.

    Recently I and Andrew Ivanchenko created an article about Trinity, more precisely, about invalid understanding of this concept by non-Christians. Usually this misunderstanding leads to many problems in the dialogue. It is my first article (in this area), translated into English - great thanks to the translator Michael Iazovsky. So, if it does not violate the rules of this forum, I would like to present this article here:

    Trinity, the definition of concepts for non-Christians

    Could you, please, read and comment it? Thank you in advance!

    (If this forum section is not appropriate for such discussion, I ask moderators to move it to right section.)
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
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  2. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Very interesting and insightful article - thanks for sharing it. Although there is an 80% overlap with Jewish believers when it comes to the scriptures I suppose the Trinity is mainly found in that other 20% that we do not share. Thus the historical understanding of Christ on earth and the experience of Pentecost are for example crucial to this new awareness of what it means to know God and the extra clues that might now be available about his nature. Early Christians worked their way through various heresies to achieve that list of what the Trinity is and is not. The greek intellectual climate that spawned the rejected mythologies you also mentioned also encouraged a word game culture that dealt with concepts like the Trinity as intellectual exercises to be understood on a purely intellectual level rather than in terms of actual relationship and historical experience. You weave modern science into the article very well e.g. references to cosmic eggs and big bangs , and the contemporary academic culture is also evident. As a 6 day creationist these analogies do not work for me. I wonder if anyone who does not have the intimate relationship that characterised a believers walk with the Trintarian God or who disbelieves in the true character of the historical events in which Gods nature was made clear will ever really be able to articulate this deeper level of awareness of who God is. But in terms of giving an academic definition that could give some insight to non Christians your article was very good IMHO
     
  3. seashale76

    seashale76 Orthodox Christian and Unapologetic Iconodule

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  4. LoAmmi

    LoAmmi Dispassionate

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    I think there certainly is a lot of misunderstanding of the Trinity within Christianity from those outside of it. I am talking about it within Christianity; you couldn't transfer it to our faith and have it be anything other than polytheism, but that's one of the separations between our faiths.

    I hope you do well in your quest of knowledge.
     
  5. Zoness

    Zoness 667, neighbor of the beast Supporter

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    It is definitely complicated understanding its relevance from the outside looking in. Especially since even from the inside, I never REALLY understand its relevance.
     
  6. Arthra

    Arthra Baha'i

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    Probably the main way the doctrines have been passed down over the centuries is through repetition in creeds recited over and over and over again...
     
  7. Daniel Alievsky

    Daniel Alievsky Junior Member

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    Thank you for your response, mindlight!

    I think that even this 20%, i.e. the New Testament, does not contain evident description of Trinity concept. It is obvious - other confession, including Jews, have an ability to read it and sometimes really study these books, but it does not help to avoid myths about Trinity. I've read Evangel very thoroughly, but... did not find there any hints to Trinity. Though I understand very well, that for Christians it contains necessary hints, I even known what are these hints and references, but... it is so for Christians only.

    I was able to little understand Trinity not from Evangel, but from Thomas Aquinas, John Damaskin and orthodox forum kuraev.ru

    I could add that similar ideas and approachs (like Trinity) were developed not only in Greek, but also in Jewish tradition, namely in Kabbalah. I can refer to an idea of the pair "Ein-Sof" (Infinity, transcendental God) and "Hashem" (the same God, who reduced Himself to give us ability to contact Him).
     
  8. Daniel Alievsky

    Daniel Alievsky Junior Member

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    Here is no a goal to transfer some your ideas and concepts into another faiths. The goal is another: all confessions, moreover, all people must UNDERSTAND each other. Mutual misunderstanding is a large problem, well described in the deepest allegory of the Tower of Babel.

    It is a normal situation, when I am not agree with your faith, you are not agree with a muslim, and atheist do not belive into our concepts at all. But it is very bad, when one from us ABSOLUTELY do not understand the words of another and draws a conclusion, that he is terrible miscreant, who should die. The myths about Christianity, unfortunately, lead to something like this. Undortunately, I see this often enough, because live among representatives of another faith - good, honest people, deeply believers, but thinking about Christians on the base of different myths.
     
  9. Daniel Alievsky

    Daniel Alievsky Junior Member

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    You are right :) Some of my Christian friends told that learned something new for them from this article.
    But the goal of this work is not to explain Trinity very well. If someone really want good understanding, he can study Thomas Aquinas and other classics. The goal is only to help to avoid terrible miskakes in understanding of the alien faith, i.e. myths, leading to tragic aftermaths.
     
  10. simplegifts

    simplegifts Newbie

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    There is no perfect analogy for the Triune God.

    Have you read the New Testament? Here are a few to get you started:

    THE SON (JESUS) IS GOD.
    John 1
    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    ...
    14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth
    [Have you looked up the word logos used here?]

    John 10
    30 I and the Father are one.”
    31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him,
    (The Jews knew that Jesus claim = "He was God". stoning appropriate punishment for blasphemy.)

    Colossians 2
    9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,

    Philippians 2
    6 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
    7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
    8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
    even death on a cross!
    9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
    10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

    THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD.
    Acts 5
    3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

    I have discussed Kabbalah on a Jewish forum and it is in no way similar.
     
  11. Daniel Alievsky

    Daniel Alievsky Junior Member

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    Yes, of course.

    Yes, I know.

    To understand these and similar places well it is necessary to know, that in Jewish faith EVERY person is a son of God. See Deuteronomy 14:1 and 32:6. Jews call God as "Father" every day in the prayers. It is very important axiom of Torah, and we need to read words of Jesus in this context - who was Jew and spoke with Jews.
    Yes, some of his opponents thought that he blasphemes, but not because he named himself "son of God".

    Kabbalah is a very large complex of knowledge and is very difficult for studying. I cannot seriously study Kabbalah, because I didn't learn Torah even 10 years - to start Kabbalah, a man usually need to learn Torah 30-50 years or more. So, discussions on forums can be only very shallow.

    But could you give me a reference, on which forum did you discuss this?
     
  12. simplegifts

    simplegifts Newbie

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    I kept notes in case the topic came up again. I had asked about the Trinity in Judiasm and then much later another Christian brought it up, so I am glad I saved it.

    A symbol expressing the Trinity.
    http://www.gotquestions.org/images/trinity.jpg

    A symbol expressing the tree of life associated with the Kabbalah
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/Tree_of_life_wk_02.jpg

    The symbol most associated with the Kabbalah is called the "Tree of Life." It is an arrangement of the ten emanations into three columns, "three heads," Keter ("crown"), Chochmah ("wisdom") and Binah ("understanding") each serve as a head of a column. The three represent the entire Tree of Life, that each flows from the other. Thus, the three heads represent the whole body, and the whole body represents one revelation of the being/non-being of Ein Sof ("the Eternal").

    These do not represent personalities within a godhead, but emanations within eternity, each becoming more "knowable" as the student, person progress from that which is completely unknowable (Ayin/Keter) to that which is most directly knowable to ourselves (Malchut "kingdom").

    The emanations are conceived as a model for the way in which G-d works in history and with Himself.

    The emanations operate all around us, and we are only aware of them piecemeal. Kabbalah secrets are only revealed to the serious student. We can become aware of them by study and contemplation: to some more knowlege is given then others. So the revelations are neither collective (indeed, the sephirot are conceived of differently by different Kabbalists) nor single to an individual.

    My take is that it is parallel to Christian Modalism/Sabellianism and how Bahai incorporate all the messengers from God into one religion.

    A huge difference I see - Christianity is not and was ever meant to be a secret known only by the serious student. There were never any secret rituals or knowledge - it is to be universal, for all of man for the least intelligent, even mentally challenged to the most studied.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2013
  13. Supreme

    Supreme British

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    I always find the Trinity best explained by water- it can be ice, liquid and steam, yet is still the same substance. Likewise, God is Father, Son and Spirit.
     
  14. Daniel Alievsky

    Daniel Alievsky Junior Member

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    It is understandable, but I really don't see an ability to seriously discuss Kabbalistic aspects from my side. I don't like shallow investigations of deep questions and understand very well that my level here is absolutely insufficient.

    The only obvious thing that I could point out - Trinity concept is really difficult, and it is not correct to say that "here is no secrets". The difference from Kabbalah is not that Trinity is obvious for any housewife, but that there is no necessity for Christians to understand Trinity absolutely precisely and strictly. The main for Christians, as I understand, is to have God inside the heart. On the other hand, Jews also may not learn Kabbalah and even should not learn it; we must fulfil commandments and have a love to God in heart.
     
  15. Daniel Alievsky

    Daniel Alievsky Junior Member

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    But ice, liqued and steam are only different aspects of the water, different aggregate state. Unlike this, Hypostases are not only aspects or functions of God (according your faith). Every Hypistasis is 100% God, which is impossible to say about, for example, the ice: is is a form of water, but not the water itself.

    I think the analogies with photons and electromagnetic field is little better.
     
  16. simplegifts

    simplegifts Newbie

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    The knowledge that God is a Triune God is not a secret. We know how He has reacted to us though out history. He is not hidden to only those who have some secret knowledge. We simply do not have the brains to understand how such a magnificent being could exist.
     
  17. Daniel Alievsky

    Daniel Alievsky Junior Member

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    What do you mean "secret"?

    I see that Trinity is a very difficult concept. I don't know anyone outside the Christianity who understood it not only well, but just somehow - including very wise philosophers like Rambam. I had to spend several YEARS to bring myself nearer to this concept, and even now it is difficult to explain this to anyone. The result of this (very large) work is this paper.

    Of course, it is not a secret in the sense that anyone, theoretically, can study Damaskin and try to understand this. But in this case Kabbalah is also not a secret - anyone can start teaching, to do this he just need to learn ivrit, start to read Torah every year, find a teacher etc.
     
  18. simplegifts

    simplegifts Newbie

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    Secret revelations only to certain people because they belong to certain group or have performed certain rituals.

    Example - a college student joins a sorority or fraternity, they go through secret initiation ceremony where things are told to them that they can not talk about with anyone other the members of said group.

    The Trinity explanation is not a secret - we just can't begin to understand it. We can't understand how God has existed forever, how he created the universe, how his word/logos became incarnate, etc.
     
  19. Daniel Alievsky

    Daniel Alievsky Junior Member

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    In such terms, of course, neither Trinity nor Kabbalah are not secrets. Secrets like "initiation ceremony" are not serious, they are human inventions only.

    In my opinion, the true and great secrets are the mysteries of nature and of its Creator. Here nobody disables to learn them, but it is sometimes so difficult that even the wisest from people cannot understand them well enough. Area of the Kabbalah is an area of such mysteries. Not a problem, everyone welcome to learn it - but he should understand that 50 years of daily studies are usually not enough here.

    Trinity is also a mystery of such type. Maybe it doesn't require 50 years for understanding, but it is a true and deep secret of Christianity, in this sense. A secret that is absolutely unknown to most non-Christians, and I and Andrew tried to partially lift veil of secrecy here.
     
  20. ViaCrucis

    ViaCrucis Evangelical Catholic of the Augsburg Confession

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    I've long held that one of the reasons why non-Christians have such difficulty with the Christian teaching on the Trinity is that many Christians are themselves improperly catechized.

    I can speak rather personally here. The Trinity was always a part of my theological and religious formation growing up, from a very young age; but the real meat of the theology was never really taught to me. As a result I didn't really start to wrap my head around the theology until I started to really pour myself into that theology--by understanding the language and ideas that have been in use since antiquity.

    Essential concepts of Trinitarian theology include understanding the difference between "Ousia" (Substance, Essence, Being, Nature, Thing-ness) and "Hypostasis" (Subsistance, This-ness, confusingly translated as "Person" in English); as well as other concepts such as Perichoresis, which I don't think really has a direct translation but more-or-less "literally" means "to dance around"; describing the interior movement of the Three in their Unity.

    Now there do exist statements of belief within [Western] Christianity that I think are helpful. The most commonly known is what has been known as the Athanasian Creed, one of the Ecumenical Creeds confessed by Christians of the Western liturgical tradition (Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, etc). A lesser known, but I would argue even better statement is the one that was drawn up at the 11th Council of Toledo in the 7th century, the council was a minor, regional council but the statement of faith is fantastic and really hammers down basic Trinitarian theology. The Statement of Faith drawn up at Toledo can be found here. It's not an "official" Statement of Faith, i.e. it's not one of the Ecumenical Creeds, but its value is nonetheless evident in its eloquence and depth.

    I think that if we Christians want others to better understand our teaching on the Trinity, we should be willing to do some of that homework ourselves. Though one of my major laments about the modern condition of Christianity (especially here in the West) is the general lack of interest in good, solid, historical theology in favor of a sort of "my Bible and me, theology on the fly". I, in part, attribute this to the malaise that's befallen many churches and Christians that is basically anti-academic and anti-intellectual. It's less about Confessing the Faith as it is "feeling" my personal "faith fuzzies" and calling that a "personal relationship with Jesus".

    -CryptoLutheran
     
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