Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Catching up on my reading. . .
In the May 2013 issue, public conversation among teaching theologians of the ELCA on various themes of our faith and the challenging issues of our day have taken up the issue of Trinity and Gender. Hmmmmm. This is the kind of thing that usually does not end well. The series is edited by Philip D.W. Krey, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, on behalf of the presidents of the eight ELCA seminaries but the authors of this article are John Hoffmeyer and Amy Marga, theologians of the ELCA.
Set like a conversation, the article begins: Probably one of the most well-known phrases in the Christian faith is Jesus’ command to the disciples in Matthew 28 to go and baptize “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Does this mean that God’s only appropriate name is “Father,” “Son” and “Holy Spirit”? Right there we begin with an issue -- the "name" of God is in quotes as if it is not really the name or not the only name or not the primary name.
As Christians we should look to the unsurpassable revelation of God in Jesus Christ to orient our naming of God. The most important reason for Christians praying to God as “Father” is that in doing so, we are following Jesus’ practice... It follows from our being adopted into Jesus’ prayer to God the Father that we should be at the forefront of challenging all forms of male privilege. Danger Will Robinson! God's name is unsurpassable and every name is inadequate so we can pick and choose whatever name we prefer. Since God and His name are relatively inaccessible and only the tip of the Divine iceberg, every name falls short and any name is about as good as another. So.... I guess I will be checking to make sure that any folks coming my way who were recently baptized in an ELCA congregation were really baptized into the mandated name of Matthew 28 and not with a substitute name of God. To be sure, "faith, hope, and love" or "Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier" are the more common substitutions and neither is allowable by God's Word.
Certainly Jesus' understanding of the "fatherhood" of God upends cultural norms of prayer, maleness, and privilege... God finds so many different ways to reach us, many more than the human language of "fatherhood" could ever capture... Ahhh, but is this the choice of human language or is God the Father the intentional revelation of God, His ultimate self-disclosure to us through His Son, who teaches us to prayer Our Father and the name of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? So, in essence, The Lutheran is telling us that Hebrews has it wrong and Jesus' word and works are not God's ultimate revelation to us, once for all to save us, but merely one in a myriad of evolving shapes, names, and images. Boy does that make you feel good!
God is a mystery who refuses to be encompassed by any name... Well, uh, but, uh, didn't God choose this name as His self-disclosure? Even more, the name of access that with the water creates baptism to impart new life, in the absolution acts to forgive our sins, and with bread and wine gives to us His flesh as food and His blood as drink? I think I read that somewhere...
Christ is present to us in a variety of ways through the Spirit. This was Luther's great comfort and its God's promise to us... Awww... now why drag Luther into this mess of mystery language inadequacy uncertainty, and doubt that parades as a legitimate discussion of the Trinity and gender? What did Luther do to you? What he did for me was to point me to confidence in God's self-disclosure in the Scripture that speaks Christ's voice to us and imparts the fullness of His saving grace at the appointed places where His Word and earthly elements set apart by that Word deliver what it is they promise. Far from being a God who is mostly mystery to us, we have confidence in His name given to us and we have access to the grace in which we stand in the water, bread, and wine that with this Name and Word bestow the fruits of His saving death and the promise of His life-giving resurrection.
Yep... another issue of The Lutheran to shed a tear over... what will come next???? Makes me glad for even a dull issue of The Lutheran WITNESS.