Trinity and Revelation


#1

Just as a mental exercise for myself - not intending to do anything with this, I wrote an essay refuting sola Scriptura, but tried to take a different approach than typical by looking at revelation as a type of the Trinity. Has anyone ever read anything along the angle I take? Any thoughts or places where I go into serious error? It follows in three parts:

Man can often understand something of the nature of God, beyond what he reveals to us through public revelation, by contemplating the many mysteries and complexities of his creation and actions. It is, for instance, because of our human consciousness, our spiritual selves, that we have a glimpse of God’s perfect, eternal spiritual essence.
For another example, just as the Father’s Word became flesh in the person of Christ, his revealed “word” should model something of the nature of the God. Simply stated, revelation, itself, is a model of the Trinity. Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium each contain the fullness of revelation just as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each contain the fullness of God.
It is a shame, then, that a foundational element of Christianity, the nature of revelation, should be so misunderstood by our Protestant brothers and sisters, who hold firmly to the rally cry of sola Scriptura. So perhaps it is more to the point that, instead of understanding God through the analogy of revelation, our understanding of God can actually help our splintered Christianity understand the nature of revelation.
It is important to remember here that no metaphor, even one intended by God himself, can in earthly terms capture perfectly the mystery and complexity of the Divine. For instance, a human family is also a model of the Trinity in that two people, a husband and wife, become one flesh and that act of love, itself, becomes a third person, just as the Holy Spirit spirates from the perfect love of the Father and Son. Yet the comparison falls short when we understand that the love between the Father and Son is vastly different than between spouses.
That said, to continue with analogy, Christians recognize that the Trinity has always existed, even though it was missing from Jewish theology until the advent of Christ. Likewise, through God’s perfect knowledge, the completeness of revelation has always existed. The message of Paul’s epistles was no less true thousands of years before God inspired him to write them, yet they had a very specific place in salvation history and could not be revealed until then. In fact, not a word of Scripture was written before its time, and until then revelation was passed from generation to generation through oral Tradition. Just as the Jews knew no God but God the creator, the earliest men knew no revelation but that which traveled by memory.


#2

Christians understand Christ to be the eternally begotten Son of the Father. This does not, of course, make Christ secondary to the Father, but simply describe the way in which one radiates outward from the other. With this in mind, the relationship between Tradition and Scripture can be understood. As generations of Jews and Christians began putting oral Tradition into writing, the Scriptures were formed. The radiated forth from Tradition, as the Son does from the Father, yet Scripture is in no way inferior to Tradition. At the same time, both the Father and Son retain their distinct identities, that of creator and redeemer, and the latter is not meant to replace the former. In the same way, Tradition serves one purpose, largely interpretive, and Scripture serves quite a different one in its material sufficiency. God never intended for Scripture to supplant Tradition, and should anyone doubt this, he only needs to try and recreate an old covenant sin offering from the details included in the Old Testament.
For a large part of salvation history, revelation existed on a purely intellectual, or spiritual, level. In the same way, God existed in a purely spiritual level until that point when the Word became flesh and Christ existed as completely human and completely divine. Suddenly he had flesh that one could touch and a voice that one could hear. Likewise, as the teachings of the church, both Jewish and Christian, were recorded onto paper, revelation also took on a human form so that now, with all seventy-three books of Scripture complete and compiled, one could hold the word of God in his hand, read it at his leisure, or thump it from a pulpit. Some make the mistake of assuming that God intended for Scripture to replace Tradition. Not only does this contradict what Scripture itself has to say on the matter, it would be as ridiculous as to say that the Father was no longer relevant once the Son made himself known. This reformation-born philosophy has lead to the splintering of Christianity into hundreds of denominations, and that should serve as ample proof of the error.
As Christ prepared to ascend into heaven, he promised his followers that a helper, the Holy Spirit would come to guide the leaders of his church to all truth. Of course the Spirit has existed for all eternity, but the Old Testament is empty of any mention of this divine person except, perhaps in vague references, such as in tributes to Wisdom, which are discernable only through hindsight. In addition, Christians do not take Christ’s promise to mean that “all truth” indicates additional revelation as that would be completed by the death of the last apostle. Rather, as new challenges presented themselves to the Christian communities and as theological understanding developed, the Holy Spirit would come as a guide to help Christians apply both Scripture and Tradition to the changing times, as we do today with issues like embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia. Using the model of the Trinity, if Tradition and Scripture represent the Father and his eternally begotten Son, then the Magisterium, or teaching authority of the Church, completes this model as the “spirit” of truth. Just as the Holy Spirit does not give us new information, but simply guides us from milk to meat, the Pope and bishops are not adding new revelation, but simply clarifying and developing that which has already been given. And that teaching authority can only exist as the product of Scripture married to Tradition, just as the Holy Spirit can only exist as a manifestation of the love between the Father and Son.


#3

When contemplating the holy Trinity, it is important to remember that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit also do not act independently of one another. For instance, the Father created the universe, but he did so through the Son. The Son redeems us, but he does so through the work of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts. Theologians use the word “circuminsession” to describe the way the three persons reside within and work through one another, and this is an important concept to keep in mind when understanding revelation. Scripture works through Tradition to help us understand that, when we engage in the practice of communion, we are truly receiving the body and blood of Christ. It is Scripture working through the Magisterium that helps us to apply Biblical teaching to pro-life legislation nearly two-thousand years after the New Testament was completed.
I still remember sitting down, some time ago, and discussing doctrine with the Jehovah’s Witness missionaries, Greg and Cindy, that came to my door. “That’s polytheism,” Cindy muttered as I explained the concept of a three-in-one God. Of course, it is not, but she had so programmed herself to believe otherwise that her heart was shut to the truth. We can only pray that, regarding the truth of revelation, the same is not true for our separated brothers and sisters and that we can one day soon begin to see the fulfillment of Christ’s prayer that we all be one.


#4

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