Feb 5, 2009

Limited Government, part 2: Some further reflections on the Trinity

(From a submitted paper 2 years ago)


Generally, our view of authority is always interrelated with our view of a Higher Power. We experience the Triune God’s omnipotence when we encounter God’s grace; God’s almighty power revealed in the vulnerability that The Messiah felt at Golgotha. Through the use of godly notions of power, the Black church can undermine modern sinful realities of racism, classism, and sexism. The oppressive relationships reinforced by sinful social and political systems in America can be disrupted by imitating the liberating relationships Christians should have with God, each other, and the community. Ideal power relationships are best conceived by imitating the Trinity: the relationships between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas notes, “[The] Trinitarian doctrine avows a God who is internally and externally relational. God, in Godself, the Godhead, is in a relationship of mutuality and reciprocity as creator, redeemer, and sustainer.”(Kelly Brown Douglas. Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective. (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2003), 119) A Trinitarian vision of power relationships would be grounded in reciprocity, equality, and self-transcendence as well as undermine worldly and oppressive social structures dependent upon inequality and imposed unjust relationships.
Jesus The Messiah the titles of King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and Prince of Peace (Revelation 19:16, Isaiah 9:6). These political images demonstrate the Christian desire to recognize the sovereignty and graciousness of the Triune God. At the crucifixion, Jesus is crowned with thorns and labeled “The King of the Jews” by the Roman authorities because he was viewed as both a religious and political threat to the dominant cultural and political system of that time, the Roman Empire. Jesus’ declaration of the coming of the Kingdom of God served as a condemnation of the prevailing religious and political principalities of his day. He began his earthly ministry declaring, “The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:15). Jesus prophesied Good News to people who suffered from human wickedness and social oppression. His declaration was a reversal of the world order; he advocated God’s reign over and against the rule of sinful humanity. Jesus rebuked the pagan definition of honor, the means of greatness and power in the 2nd century when he answered who had the right to sit at his right and left in his kingdom:
“You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28.)

The Messiah’s view of power is the power to serve, to freely give oneself for the sake of others. Throughout the Hebrew Bible, the prophets, judges, kings and priests recognized the Spirit of God as the source of their strength. The prophet Micah declared, “But as for me, I am filled with power, the Spirit of the Lord [.]” (Micah 3:8) True power, in godly terms, begins with the Triune God sharing Godself with humanity. Throughout Scripture, God is referred to as the Almighty because God has all power. God is omnipotent because God possesses all logically possible powers which it is logically possible for a being with the attributes of God to possess (John Bowden and Alan Richardson. The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983, 414). Therefore, God can never contradict God in se, including acting contrary to His goodness. In other words, unlike fallen human beings, God does not abuse power; God shares it.
The power of God is not an object that should be fought over, but a person to be shared, namely His Son, Jesus The Messiah. The apostle Paul confessed, “[We] preach The Messiah Crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, The Messiah the power and wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1st Corinthians 1: 23-25). The Christian concept of power is when one allows Jesus’ power to be made perfect in one’s weakness as s/he depends upon God’s grace. Holy Ghost power means embodying both God’s power and presence as one is conformed to the image of the Crucified Immanuel, God with us. Divine omnipotence and human empowerment are inextricably linked because it is the Spirit of The Messiah, the Holy Spirit, who is responsible for changing us into the image of our Risen Lord (2nd Corinthians 12:9).


Although this piece was submitted for an essay competition a couple of years ago, and despite the many ideological changes that have taken place within myself, I still hold the Trinitarian doctrine of Divine omnipotence suggested by this work. However, I would like to reflect on the political implications for a Trinitarian doctrine of Divine omnipotence. I uphold God God in se (as defined in the Christian tradition) as the standard for all human relationships, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and communal. God’s freedom to rule the world as God chooses is a key tenet for those that believe in the sovereignty of God; for Christians in particular, God intervenes in human history to redeem the world (in traditional Christianity). The Christian God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exists as three different persons, yet one divine essence. God the Father, according to the apostle Paul, delivers up the Son to die for our salvation, The Triune God does reveal Himself for his own glory; He shares himself in order to save humankind. In the same manner, human governments conformed in the image of the Imago Trinitas, should be limited in that no one single faction’s interests should not be held over other factions. This may call for shared power, which sounds INSANE in a country where corporations, the military industrial complex, and the prison industrial complex take priority when GOP holds the majority in the federal government, much like when unions and other special interest groups “win” when the Democrats are in power. Many would argue that America could not be changed constitutionally, say for instance, to a more participatory structure because of our long history as a 2 party system. I would contend, however, that maybe it is time to go back to the first days of the Republic. There was a tradition that the person (at that time, a white male who owned property), who lost the presidential election would become vice president. It was not until almost a half century later that political parties formally nominated a presidential and vice presidential candidate for the general election. We may need to consider returning to this tradition to liberate ourselves from the winner-take-all partisan politics that we continue to see in Washington, D.C. President Ronald Wilson Reagan, in his farewell address said , “But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours. And something else we learned: Once you begin a great movement, there's no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world.” Reagan's farewell
Let us remember the traditions of the first days of the Republic and strive to be the most free, just, and peaceful nation that we can be.

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