Thoughts on Trinity Sunday

I became fascinated with the Babylonian creation stories many years ago. The two original deities, Tiamat, the feminine god of chaos (or salt water, or the ocean, which is the embodiment of chaos), and her consort, Apsu, the masculine god who is very mysterious and unknowable, but was probably the god of fresh water, and particularly, the god of the springs from where the holy water of the religious rites came.

They had a number of children, but the key child – in terms of the creation story – is Anu, who killed Tiamat, chopped her up, and scattered her. Those scattered remains became the created order as we know it. Thus the created order came about from the defeat of chaos.

But chaos remained. Babylonian society was a small enclave of order surrounded by chaos.

This Babylonian creation myth came to mind because of the texts for Trinity Sunday, which was celebrated June 12 in the Western churches. The Christian creation story also starts with chaos: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was [chaotic] and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:1f).

The difference in the two stories is striking. In the Babylonian story the outer chaos is something to be feared and avoided. I purposely quoted the RSV because it views Gen 1:2 from a Christian perspective translating the Hebrew “Wind” (blowing over the chaos) as “the Holy Spirit.” In this Christian version of the story, the chaos is there, but the Holy Spirit is present out there, above the chaos.

In the Gospel lesson Jesus sends the disciples out into the world. In the Babylonian view of the world, only a Hero would dare venture out into the chaos. In the Christian view, we ordinary people can venture out into the chaos outside our community because the Spirit is already present “blowing over the waters.”

As humans we naturally fear chaos (it’s actually biological) and in the last several years our world has become quite chaotic. For Americans that chaos reach a fever pitch with the recent presidential election. My liberal friends who are horrified by President Trump and live in abject fear of what they perceive as the chaos in the political order (and similarly, my conservative friends who were equally frozen in fear by the prospect of Hillary Clinton), desperately need to hear these glorious words of Trinitarian truth: The Spirit’s abode is above the chaos (in the same way the wind blows above the prairie). The chaos is therefore not so much a problem as it is an opportunity. As frightening as it is, the chaos is relatively safe. In chaos there be dragons! But in chaos there be God blowing upon the deep. It is the Trinitarian message of hope.


A Word About Intelligent Design

My sister and brother-in-law are visiting the grand kids for a month while we hold down the fort at their place. Fortunately we had a couple of days at the house together to catch up.

He teaches junior high English in a private school so all things education have been covered the last couple of days. Along the way the subject of Intelligent Design (ID) came up. In my evolution series I didn’t address the issue of ID because I didn’t want to muddy the water. In fact, I don’t like ID for a variety of reasons, primarily because I think it’s a cop-out when it comes to addressing the theological issues that evolution raises.

Rejecting Intelligent Design as a theory of origins does not preclude an intelligent designer of creation. In fact I happily and whole-heartedly affirm that God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed that intelligent designer. My point is that you’ll never be able to prove it from the created order. It’s not only an intelligent design, it’s a stealthy design and God’s handiwork will always be deniable for those who insist on denying God.

Jerry doesn’t buy into the whole evolution thing, but he isn’t a big fan of ID either. He added a twist I had never thought about before. He observed that ID is actually just a sophisticated form of Deism. Assuming that ID is true, creation reveals an intelligent designer, but tells us nothing of that designer. It is the anonymous clockmaker revisited. It therefore encourages a vague religion without a commitment to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who was revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and all the ethical and transformational responsibilities that particular understanding of God implies.

Intelligent Design is Science Lite that encourages (or at the very least, allows) a sort of Religion Lite. It’s very American and oh, so contemporary. But neither one of us (two people who are on very different wave lengths when it comes to origins) think it’s very good theology.