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June 3, 2012                            David Timbs (Melbourne)                       

                       The Trinity

The Blasphemous and Obscene

On August 9, 1945, Fat Man, a plutonium bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Around 70, 000 people died almost immediately.  Within days of two nuclear weapons being used on human populations the war in the Pacific came to an end and with it World War II.

Three weeks before the Fat Man did its work, US Army engineers for the first time in history detonated a nuclear device. This took place at Alamogordo in New Mexico now self-titled as ‘The Friendliest Place on Earth.’ The code name for this test shot was Trinity.

It seems that the chief nuclear scientists in the project, Robert Oppenheimer, gave it that name. He was an amateur Sanskrit scholar and thought it apt that he use the term Trinity after  Hinduism’s divine Trinity: Brahma (Creator), Vishnu  (Preserver) and Shiva (Destroyer).

After witnessing the awesome destructive power of that first nuclear blast, Oppenheimer quoted the words of Shiva in the Bhagavad-Gita (the Sanskrit Scriptures),

If the radiance of a thousand suns
was to burst at once in the sky,

that would be like the splendour of the Mighty One….

I am become Death
the destroyer of worlds.

Oppenheimer’s allusion to the random devastation caused by the ‘gods’ became an obscene reality when a scientific weapons test became the brutal, conscious existential reality of unconditional warfare. Many of the scientists, including Oppenheimer, who were involved in the Manhattan Project soon became committed advocates of total nuclear disarmament.

Something not of the real God and something at the darker side of humanity was and is at work in those things and they have nothing to do with life or love.

It is reasonable to suggest that the level of outrage and protest against the development and  use of  nuclear weapons under the name of a deity originated from a sense that humanity itself has done something obscenely anti-human, something that reflects nothing of the grandeur or reality of who God really is. Perhaps, the perverse Trinity device serves the purpose of a counter symbol and invites us into a deeper and more graceful reflection on  what the Trinity of Christianity is not and on who the Triune God really is.

The Sublime and the Gracious

From the earliest days of post Pentecost Christianity its adherents have been welcomed, baptised and commissioned in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But reflection on the One God with three names did not begin to develop in a vacuum. The original source of Trinitarian knowledge originated in the experience of Jesus by his followers and by those who came after them. They came to understand that the only way God could be understood was through the humanity of Jesus. His whole life was a perfect human reflection of who God is and how God continues to act in human history. Jesus was and is the ultimate disclosure of God, God who is Trinity.

The more abstract philosophical and theological reflections on the Trinity provide that kind of frustration which the Eastern mystics describe as a cross for the human mind. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christians have a level and medium of comprehensibility, tangibility and access to God that mere ideas cannot provide.

Jesus, at the very heart of his being, disclosed the personalities of God.
In his ministry of healing and single-minded devotion he showed the human face of the Creator, God ever with and sustaining creation. He gave the distant Creator a close personal name, a human name, Abba.
In his life and teaching he modelled his own filial or Sonship relationship with his Abba, The Father and I are one. But it was not a cosy, privatized relationship. He included his friends in the family life of God, ‘And when you pray, say, our Father….’ Jesus provided his followers with access to the extravagantly generous hospitality and compassion of God especially at the table of God, he blessed God, broke the bread and gave it to them…..And there were twelve baskets full left over.

With Jesus there was always more than enough for all. No wonder he gave his followers the Eucharist.

Jesus became the human face of the Spirit, God the Preserver, Counsellor and  Comforter…. and he was moved deeply in spirit….and acted on behalf of Lazarus his friend; to friends no longer servants he says, I have yet many things to  say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak and will declare to you the things that are to come.

Christians recognise in Jesus and his complete existence, the original divine community and communion of life, light and grace. Jesus Christ is the human disclosure of the triune God, three persons, total selflessness, for one another and for creation. God is love.

While Western theology links the Incarnation strongly with the restoration of the God-human relationship broken by the sin of Adam, Eastern Christians from ancient times harboured an alternative view. They believed that God, who is by nature relational and who delights in delighting, would have entered human history and become Incarnate anyway. Creation after all is an icon of God, and human beings are made in the divine image and likeness. We are family and members of God’s Community of love.

And we are at our best when we are Trinity people.

David Timbs writes from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Trinity Sunday, 2012

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