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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Distinct yet Together

The essence of the doctrine of the Trinity is that neither God's Threeness nor his Oneness takes precedence over the other.  That means that each of the Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is truly distinct in self and function and that they are related to one another in unique ways, for otherwise God's Threeness would be compromised.  It also means that they are one in nature, will, and work and that they fully indwell each other, for otherwise his Oneness would be compromised.  Therefore the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each perfect at being radically distinct and radically together-with-others at the same time.

And you and I aren't.  I think we began that way, because Genesis neatly summarizes both the radical union of Adam and Eve and the radical distinction between them as male and female and as persons, which one theorizes would have multiplied with the human race.  This is what we would expect from beings created in the image of God.  As Genesis 1:27 implies, the first couple reflected God in the combination of their oneness as humankind and their distinction as two opposite-sex persons.

But the image of God in us was perverted and distorted because of sin, and I strongly believe that the distortion includes our capacity to be one-yet-many (from the corporate perspective) and distinct-yet-together-with (from the individual perspective).  We still attempt it, but we're naturally horrible at it.  Every sin we commit against our neighbor in thought, word, or deed is somehow connected to this.

But for those of us who are in Christ, who is the image of God, our transformation consists of being made like him and thus being made like who we used to be (i.e., as Adam and Eve were).

Is this not at the heart of the struggle for Christians in the Church to be what God made her to be?  How many Christian dysfunctions involve Christians attempting to force conformity on fellow Christians that God does not intend, thus violating their distinctness as persons?  Or when a Christian, in an effort to keep him- or herself distinct (because of dissatisfaction with others' imperfection, laziness, or fear of being personally invaded and overwhelmed) avoids being connected to other Christians, thus violating the togetherness God created us to possess?  Or when Christians pretend agreement with each other by means of superficial fuzzies (doctrinal or emotional) that both obscure the persons' genuine distinctness and dilute what real togetherness is about?

If we grow in reflecting the image of God in this area—that is, if each of us Christians can learn to be oneself connected with others, and if all of us can learn to be unified as true individuals—then I think a whole lot of stuff will begin to fall into place.

That's all for today; I'll write about a concrete example of this challenge soon.

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