Last week we summarized the last facet of the complex God that emerged in just a few hundred years after the death of Jesus, the ‘Trinity’. We also noted how this concept emerged at the same time that the new church began to become part of Roman society and how the church began to drift into an institution which became more dependent on adherence to dogma. As its dogma became more articulated, truth became more ‘an object of faith’ required to assure salvation and than an insight for living. It didn’t help that the new church was now becoming an essential part of the Roman structure which required a new level of adherence to dogma to insure a unified society.
Yet, as we saw from Karen Armstrong’s observation, the teaching of ‘Trinity’ was “simply baffling”, and from Richard Rohr that this teaching seems ‘furthest from human life’.
With all this, what secular sense can we make of it?
The Secular Side of the Trinity
From our secular viewpoint the perspective of the Trinity is much simpler. From our secular perspective, we have seen how God can be reinterpreted from a supernatural being which is the ‘over and against of man’ who creates, rewards and punishes, to the ‘ground of being’, the basis for the universe’s potential for evolution via increase in complexity. And applying this perspective to Jesus, we saw how he can be reinterpreted from a sacrifice necessary to satisfy such a distant God, to the personification of this increase in complexity as it rises through the human person: the ‘signpost to God’. In the same way we can see a third manifestation of this ‘axis of evolution’, the ‘Spirit’, in the energy which unites the products of evolution in such a way as to effect this increase in complexity.
More specifically, we can begin to see how this ‘triune God’ can be seen to be ‘person’. The synthesized collaboration of these three principles of evolution effects what we know as the product of evolution that we refer to as ‘the person’. Christianity puts names to these three aspects of the ground of being:
– ‘Father’ as the underlying principle of the becoming of the universe in general, but as the principle of this manifestation as it emerges after long periods of time as the ‘person’
– ‘Son’ as the manifestation of the product of evolution that has become ‘person’
– ‘Spirit’ as the energy by which this ‘becoming’ takes the form of increasing complexity which leads to the ‘person’
As we have noted frequently in this blog, Teilhard describes this third ‘person’, this third manifestation of the ground of being, as love:
“Love is the only energy capable of uniting entities in such a way that they become more distinct.”
And in addressing this last agent of becoming, we can now see more clearly how John’s astounding statement begins to make secular sense:
“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him”
Thus, Teilhard locates the ’Spirit’ squarely in the axis of evolution, as the manifestation of the energy which powers evolution through its rising levels of complexity. We can see in Science’s “Standard Model’ how the energies manifest in forces such as the atomic forces, electricity and magnetism, gravity and chemistry all collaborate in raising the universe from the level of pure energy to that of matter sufficiently complex to provide the building blocks of life. We can also see how this energy continues to manifest itself in raising the complexity of living matter through the process of Natural Selection. Understanding the ‘Spirit’ is simply to understand how evolutionary products aware of their consciousness (human persons) can cooperate with this energy to be united in such a way as to advance their individual complexity (their maturity) and therefore continue to advance the complexity of their species.
Last week we noted that Richard Rohr decried how the increasing structure and dogmatism of the Christian church increased the distance between man and God by decreasing the relevance of its message. With our secular perspective, we can see how it is possible to understand the trinity in terms which are relevant to life. Rohr offers these terms, expressed in religious language, as an integrated understanding of the trinity:
“I believe that faith might be precisely that ability to trust the Big River of God’s providential love, which is to trust the visible embodiment (the Son), the flow (the Holy Spirit), and the source itself (the Father). This is a divine process that we don’t have to change, coerce, or improve. We just need to allow it and enjoy it. Faith does not need to push the river precisely because it is able to trust that there is a river.”
The Next Post
This week we saw that how adding the ‘Spirit’ to the ‘Father’ and the ‘Son’ completes an understanding of the ‘the ground of being’, the basis of the universe’s ‘coming to be’ in general. More importantly, we saw how we can begin to understand how this agent of evolution which has ‘brought the world to its current level of complexity’ works in our individual lives, as our personal dimension of the ‘axis of evolution’.
Next week we will address the concept of spirituality, and how it can be seen in the light of our secular inquiry.