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Just any god will not do.

31 May 2010

There once may have been a time when every one knew the doctrine of the Trinity, the affirmation that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to be central and essential to the Christian faith, but sadly that knowledge does not seem to be as common these days ( even among some clergy).

Not that long ago I had someone tell me that they thought it possible to be a Christian, and a Zen Buddhist at the same time and without contradiction, that in fact there is no essential difference between the two. It doesn’t make any difference, they are all the same really, they all lead to the same place, whatever works for you is fine . Any god will do! That was the deeply held personal belief of that person anyway, and of quite a few others.

Will just any god do? Most Americans will say that they believe in the existence of some kind of “god” , as long as you’re not too specific about the kind of god they are to believe in. What do we mean when we say “I believe in God”? The term “god “ can become vague and very general. The word god is often used by people to refer to anyone or any thing whom they hold in high regard as the highest priority in their lives. To acknowledge God simply as “someone up there” doesn’t say much about him.

But Trinity Sunday is that Sunday of the Church year when we celebrate the Church’s teaching and our conviction that JUST ANY GOD WILL NOT DO. It is the only Sunday in the church year that is set aside to focus on a doctrine. Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and so on all remember events. The liturgy begins every time in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Those words should immediately remind us of the unique and special relationship that we have with God because of our baptism. When we were baptized these same words were spoken– in the name of he Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. When we gather as the Church, we are gathered to pray and sing our praises to the Triune God who has made us, saved us and sanctified us.

Will just any God do? A few biblical facts are worth calling to mind. First, the confrontation of Scriptural Faith with a world of strange and competing religions is nothing new. When Moses led Israel out of Egypt, the promised land was lousy with nature religions and fertility cults. Ancient Canaanite religions practiced everything from human sacrifice to ritual prostitution. It was no different in the New Testament age either. The Apostle Paul traveled through cities and towns that literally had a Temple on every corner. The highways and byways of the first century were home to all kinds of wandering philosophers searching for disciples and making extraordinary promises of secret knowledge and hidden wisdom. Furthermore the Bible also records that these competing faiths were often quite successful, personally satisfying and highly appealing to people.

When Moses went to Pharaoh’s court to demand the release of the people of Israel, the king’s magicians did a pretty good job of matching Moses trick for trick. When Saul visited the witch at Endor, her spells have the appearance of having summoned the grumpy spirit of the prophet Samuel. The prophets were continually condemning Israel for their contact with foreign cults, suggesting that Baalism clearly “worked” for many, many people. In Paul’s time people flocked to a host of mystery religions that included esoteric rituals and amazing displays of power.

But what the Bible declares is that the final measure of truth is NOT simply “what works for me”. Just because I find something meaningful, appealing, or attractive, does not mean that it is true. There is much more to truth than just that. Lots of people find that golf works for them. Some would say that it works for them in a more significant way than does worship of the Almighty God. Does that mean that golf is therefore the key to all reality, the secret of existence, the mystery of life? Some people, perhaps, might have a deeply held personal belief that if we just got everybody out on the golf course that there would be peace on the earth and joy in heaven. But that doesn’t make it true!

Now I am about to say something that is horribly, terribly, tremendously politically incorrect. Please forgive me but here it goes. TRUTH IS NOT A MATTER OF PERSONAL OPINION. It is not whatever happens to float your boat, and by that definition of truth, it is entirely possible that one could, for a while, feel happy, satisfied and content in life, . . . and still be miserably wrong!

Truth begins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. That is not a statement of personal opinion. That is not a put down of other religions. That is not a warrant for self – righteousness, nor a license to start burning people at the stake. That is the revelation of God, which is something neither you nor I could have arrived at, or discovered on our own. It is truth that does not guarantee me or you health, or wealth, or success. It is truth that should humble us and show us our proper place..

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