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The intimacy of God

I am an ecumenical and pluralistic type of bloke. I experience profound inspiration and wisdom, not only from a variety of Christians, but also from people of many other faiths, both in my everyday life, and in books. For example, I get a huge amount from listening to Richard Rohr, and would thoroughly recommend you checking him out if you never have.

But, with someone like Richard Rohr, I occasionally disagree when he talks about the Trinity. I'm on board with 95% of his teaching, but with this, I'm not. That's OK, of course, I don't expect to agree 100% with anyone on anything. And spiritual practice matters more than doctrine. But I think it is worth putting the alternative viewpoint, because if the alternative viewpoint is not put, people might think there is no alternative viewpoint worth listening to.

So I want to spend some time doing something I don't think I've done before in fourteen years on this blog - and that is arguing against the doctrine of the Trinity. I don't want to be overly dogmatic and argumentative but I feel the need to make an alternative case, and to make a space for the existence and flourishing of non-Trinitarian Christians and non-Trinitarian theology.

The Trinity has received renewed attention in recent decades in Christian theology. Many theologians have renewed ancient images of the Trinity as dance, as community, as love. The argument goes that the Trinity is three equal "beings" who engage in deep love for one another, in dynamic relationship that is almost like a dance - and therefore here is a model for Christian community based on love and equality.

Here's my problem with that imagery: God is engaged in love with Godself. God is dancing in intimacy and love with Godself. It is an image of self-absorption. It is inward looking.

The Unitarian God, however, is outward looking. The intimacy is not within God but outwards to the universe, to me, to you. The oneness describes an intimacy not between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but between loving God and beloved children of God. The dance is here, with you.

The loving, parental nature of God is the first principle of classical Unitarianism ("the fatherhood of God"). Note that the first principle is not the "oneness" of God over and against the "threeness" of God. That's not the starting point. The starting point is that God's intimacy is outward-looking towards God's children. The starting point is that the intimacy experienced by Jesus when he called God "Abba" and heard God calling him "my Beloved" is available for all of us. The intimacy between God and Jesus is something all of us are called to experience, not something exclusive. For me that is why Unitarian good news is better than Trinitarian good news - because it points to a God who shares intimacy with us, not a God who shares intimacy with Godself.

Today the motherhood of God may help us to understand this better than the fatherhood of God. This is the intimacy of the breastfeeding God - a God who holds us in her arms and feeds us with her very body. A God experienced when we realise that the every moment of eating, drinking, breathing, living, is an experience of taking into ourselves the very body of God.


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