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The Importance of Good Theology

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Trinity: Week 1

The Importance of Good Theology
Sunday, September 11, 2016

Brothers and sisters, I believe that behind every mistaken understanding of reality there is always a mistaken understanding of God. If you draw close to someone who is in a violent or fearful state, you will likely discover that his or her operative image of God (usually largely unconscious) is inadequate, distorted, or even toxic. That’s why good theology is still important.

I believe the ultimate purpose of theology is to clarify the central, foundational doctrine of the nature of the One at the center of it all, which many of us call “God.” For Christians, this became “Trinity,” a word not even found in the Bible. Yet it has emerged in the deepest levels of orthodox theology as the best way to describe the “shape” of God, and therefore, finally a study of the very shape and pattern of everything else created in this divine image (Genesis 1:26-27). I will be devoting the next three weeks to this theme, as I think it has tremendous practical, pastoral, and political implications. (Many of these meditations will be drawn from my new book The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation.)

Only God in you can know God, so I hope you surround your reading with plenty of silence. You cannot know God in an intimate, experiential way with your mind alone. You are going to need full access knowing, which many of us call the contemplative mind, or even the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

I slowly uncovered over many years the material on the Trinity that I am about to share with you. There were special moments of breakthrough, however. One of these was several years ago, as I was coming to the end of a wonderful extended time in a hermitage during Lent. In the last days, I stumbled upon Catherine LaCugna’s extraordinary book on the Trinity, God for Us, in the retreat center’s library. It was a big book and looked rather formidable and academic. I wondered if I would be capable of understanding it. Even though I had decided not to read during my hermitage, I had a great urge to read it instead of re-reading my journals from the previous weeks.

As I began to read, I had the experience that I’m hoping you might have: I found myself saying, “Yes, yes! This is it! This sums up everything that I think I’ve experienced.”

To barely touch upon the mystery that is Trinity, let me begin by offering you this simple prayer. In some ways it might sum up what I’m going to try to say over the next few weeks.

God for us, we call you “Father.”
God alongside us, we call you “Jesus.”
God within us, we call you “Holy Spirit.”
Together, you are the Eternal Mystery
That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us and even me. 

Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.
We can only see who you are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing—
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.


Gateway to Silence:
Come, sit at the table.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: Exploring the Mystery of Trinity (CAC: 2004), discs 1, 2, and 3 (CD, MP3 download); and
Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 117.

Image Credit: The Hospitality of Abraham, also known as The Trinity, (detail) by Andrei Rublev, 1411 or 1425-27.
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