Friday, June 23, 2006

On Trinity Metaphors

As you probably know by now if you follow religious news at all, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has recommended new language regarding the Trinity, specifically referring to the three aspects as "Rock, Redeemer, Friend" or "Mother, Child, and Womb." Not surprisingly, a big bruhaha has developed over the desire to emasculate the Father and Son. You can find a .pdf of the original document here.

Joe Carter has an interesting post on the metaphor of the "Mother, Child, Womb" language that discusses it as a conceptual metaphor.

Aside from the doctrinal issues, I share the assessment of my colleague who, upon hearing the new Trinity language, simply remarked "Parallelism issues." Note to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): if you are going to try to come up with new names for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, at least try to come up with a triad that will pass freshman comp. I mean, not every use of language can be John's "In the beginning was Logos," but surely you can do better than this!

Update: I've been thinking about some of the triads, and while most of them are ridiculous, I rather like "Speaker, Word and Breath," because the last two can at least be justified by the Greek. I still find the desire to re-name God and emasculate Christ disturbing (especially since Jesus was, you know, male), and these impulses suggest, along with linguistic silliness, a problem with priorities.


  1. especially since Jesus was, you know, male

    Not if you're Carolyn Bynum. Hee.

    But ick on the Mother, Child, Womb triad. Let's see: Human, Human, internal organ. Bleh.

    And Rock, Redeemer, Friend just reminds me of Rock, Paper, Scissors!

  2. LOL, Dr. Virago--my mother-in-law said exactly the same thing when she heard it...

    What's strange to me is that very few of these folks have interest in the feminine language that was pervasively used for the church throughout Christian history. Why not rediscover the traditional instead of inventing the new (and substandard)?

  3. Anonymous12:50 PM

    Whatever happened to the fact that "man" and "he" are both male and generic, based upon context? We women are smart enough to "get" context in Greek and Hebrew, and to pass ordination exams in same with alacrity--so why do we have to "dumb down" in our own language??

    Genesis is clear that both male and female are created in God's image--the problem here lies in having a finite (and inadequate) language for describing an Infinite God, but rather than dwell on the divinity, contemporary theologians and writers continue to divert our attention from divinity by further trying to split God into genders. The female words in our language are specific--not inclusive--and as such are not appropriate substitutes. The best convention I've found for this problem is to simply capitalize Father and Son, so that the reader knows we're talking about generic usage and divine entities.

    People have forgotten that the root word of "woman" is "man"--if they want to get away from the word "man" (and other related so-called "male" words that we've forgotten how to take in context) then they need to give the poor males of our species their own word, instead of taking away a perfectly good generic word.

    As for "Son" the author is correct here--in order to become "fully human" Christ had to become one or the other--and it so happened that He came as a male. I can just imagine the brouhaha that the PC-USA would be having had He come as a hermaphrodite!

    --a PC-USA (female) commissioned lay pastor...