Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Lauren Meets North Park

Lauren Winner, author of Girl Meets God, Mudhouse Sabbath, and Real Sex, was at North Park Theological Seminary last week and the seminary was kind enough to make the lectures public — so my two classes gathered in the seminary chapel for her two talks — one on Trinitarian Spirituality and one on Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity. I’ll focus here today on her “theology” lecture:
Lauren is now done with her PhD (from Columbia) and teaching at Duke. She saw three implications of the Trinity for Christian spirituality … and I’m guessing these are some points from a class lecture or the makings of a new book.
Her big question: How do we inhabit “Trinity” and (1) not just talk about it and (2) avoid our ever-present danger of being Deists or Unitarians? Now, what about your thoughts on Trinitarian spirituality: where does a belief in Trinity, where does our inhabiting Trinity, lead us in terms of spirituality?
1. Prayer is to be seen as participation in the ongoing dialogue of love of the Trinity. If A.C.T.S. is the normal instruction in prayer, it tends to emphasize that we initiate the conversation and enter into a conversation with God. No, she says. That conversation is endlessly ongoing — a conversation about redemption and grace and love and peace — and when we pick up the phone (my trope) we simply participate in that conversation.
2. Trinitarian spirituality images a difference without subordination and without violence, so once we inhabit Trinity we enter into the ontology of peace — and she discussed both politics and gender. Peace, she claimed, is more controversial than war.
3. Trinitarian spirituality models God’s hospitality within GodSelf and reveals an essential relationality. Community, therefore, is participation in the Trinity.
Stan Friedman‘s summary of the lectures.

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Ted Gossard

posted April 30, 2007 at 4:20 am

These, I think are great thoughts. The last sentence indicates the importance of community. I missed this by a mile most of my Christian life, though often the heart takes you where the head unfortunately did not.
I too love the idea that prayer is entering into the ongoing conversation of the Trinity. We tend to make everything rather cut and dried and predictable. But this thought throws a wrench into that.
To have a heart at rest in this relational ongoing dynamic, or better dynamic ongoing relationship. I need that!

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Greg Laughery

posted April 30, 2007 at 4:38 am

I believe, in answer to your question on Trintarian spirituality, that to be in community with God is to be a spiritual person: living spirituality. Being a spiritual person means several things, but not less than living a life of sacrifice and service as was embodied by Christ, through the power of the Spirit, to the glory of God. In turn we see the Father sending Jesus and the Spirit equipping him for the task at hand. We too are sent out from our community with God to be in community with others as we seek to make the gospel known to the ends of the earth.

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John W Frye

posted April 30, 2007 at 6:06 am

I think “inhabiting Trinity” will transform an individualistic, task-centered spirituality (I will read my Bible; I will say my prayers; I will write in my journal, etc.) into a relational, community-centered spirituality so that how I relate to God and others will be primary.

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posted April 30, 2007 at 6:43 am

This is wonderful. The Trinity as an expression of equality and community … I’d love to know more about how we “inhabit” that Trinity rather than acting as Deists or Universalists –is it through participating in equality and community … and peacemaking? But can’t you do that without becoming a Christian? Universalists would argue they’re ahead of the curve on equality, and they do form communities and work for peace … Prayer might set Christians apart from Universalists … but is there more? I love Winner’s train of thought because I often have Jews and Muslims tell me that Christians are polytheists (and hence, the implication is, wrong) … this understands the Trinity so much more fully as not just a theory but a life model.
Speaking of community and equality, there’s a good article in today’s Washinton Post called “Sexual threats stifle some bloggers” about women being harassed in the blogosphere. As some of this, in my experience, has happened in the Emergent blogosphere (“hairy armpit feminists” were attacked on one site, to my astonishment) I hope we can sit up and take more notice, especially in light of inhabiting the Trinity. … Thanks again, Scot, for providing a safe blog site!

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Scot McKnight

posted April 30, 2007 at 7:58 am

“Inhabit” was a word Lauren used but did not develop — the idea is how do we let trinitarian thought shape our perception of spirituality?

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Georges Boujakly

posted April 30, 2007 at 8:53 am

Lauren’s first idea is amazing: prayer as joining the eternal conversation. I can see how cloistered monasticism may be appealing to some.
I don’t get Lauren’s second idea. I don’t see the immediate connection between the ontology of peace in the Trinity and politics and gender. I will listen to the lecture to understand better.
The third idea is wonderful: Hospitality as the naming of one aspect of trinitarian relationaility. This cautions me about individualism being a violation of hospitality.

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posted April 30, 2007 at 9:11 am

How did was “Real Sex” treated and excepted at North Park?

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Mark Traphagen

posted April 30, 2007 at 9:21 am

You said these talks would be made “public.” Does this mean the audio is (or will be) available somewhere?

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posted April 30, 2007 at 10:07 am

Well, this is more related to the second issue–how do we avoid being deists–which I think is profoundly important in America, but it backs into the first pretty strongly. Here are a few thoughts that I think are related to each other and to both of the questions Lauren raised:
– If Mammon is a (the?) rival god to the Father, its main attraction is in its perceived ability to “get things done” in this world. The difference between Theism and Deism is precisely about who or what has this ability and willingness to act. Power to provide what’s perceived as necessary gets loyalty. Our faith in Money feeds our Deism and vice-versa.
– Our tradition in the Western Church of rationalism, dispensationalism and distrust of the supernatural hasn’t done much good for our pneumotology (practiced or theoretical). We want to be Deists on many levels, which creates the power vaccuum for Mammon to step into control. Even though there’s been a lot of relational progress in the western Church (not as much of either side calling the other the devil anymore) we’re a long way from leaving effective ignorance of the aggressiveness that all three members of the Trinity have toward acting in this world. (Do the gospels give us any basis for pinning all the miraculous and forceful demonstrations of God’s power on the Holy Spirit alone? Weren’t they all in on that? Aren’t they still?) Which is related to my last thought:
– Our gospel has only recently begun, if at all, to be a gospel of the kingdom, of God’s functional leadership, of his rightful and desired role in the world, of his currently working power and agendas. (Which is a threat to our money attachments and our excessive rationalism and all our idols.) But we’re just coming out of (and still largely in) a gospel paradigm that has little or nothing to do with this life which works way too well with Deism.
I’m sure there are other big issues raised by her questions, but those few (controversial) things seem significant to me.

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Scot McKnight

posted April 30, 2007 at 10:51 am

The key word is nonsubordinate and nonviolent. It is a Trinity of equals at peace; peace reflects Trinity.
The second session seems to me to have been well-received.

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posted April 30, 2007 at 3:59 pm

Scot, is this lecture going to be available for us to hear? This has tweaked my interest.

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Scot McKnight

posted April 30, 2007 at 4:11 pm

I don’t know. I’ll look into it.

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posted April 30, 2007 at 6:36 pm

I don’t know if community is participation in the Trinity, but it certainly is a reflection of God. Communion is the essential nature of God so I can kind of understand it from that perspective, but I’m not quite sure what participation in the Trinity means. Is *any* community participation in the Trinity?
I’m not sure that the Trinity means there is no subornation…not even voluntary submission? Not My will but Thine be done???

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posted April 30, 2007 at 6:50 pm

The very first thought and impression I got after reading this post is what I experience every time I listen to a christian musician John Michael Talbot either in person or tape.
I love the man. The very presence of the Holy Spirit fills my room and it is very precious and holy time. I think a life set apart in a consistant and disciplined way invites this type of communion relationally in a tangible way. I am quieted when alone,but the challenge I think is how this is expressed relationally with others.
BTW Lauren spoke at my church and gave a seminar to single women,very good and frank. I teach abstinence education and if there is ever a reason as singles to remain chaste you will find out why by reading her book..( just an aside)

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Paul Martin

posted April 30, 2007 at 7:57 pm

I have trouble seeing authentic connections between detailed theology and lived experience. Buddhists, for example, do fine with peace and love without having to lassoo ’em and then wrastle ’em to the ground to hogtie ’em with a trilogistic conceptual apparatus.
In the interests of full disclosure, I spent a year of my life sleeping six hours a night and holed up in a tiny dorm room overdosing on theology to get my Masters at the U of Chicago divinity school. I read so many people who purported to have it all figured out – and I do mean ALL – that in the end it rendered me skeptical of both the truthfulness and usefulness of explanations rendered in great theological detail.
The worst was Alfred North Whitehead, mathematician turned theologian, who seemed to really think he’d literally explained everything from the smallest subatomic particle to the Mind of God in, I don’t know, 700 or so pages. I can’t believe anyone was really convinced other than (perhaps) A. N. Whitehead.

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Suzanne Calhoun

posted May 1, 2007 at 8:09 am

Lauren’s ideas sound fascinating, relating sex and the Trinity and spirituality. I just left a church that has a high view of subordination within the Trinity and gender roles. While the rhetoric was harsher than the reality, I left because I could not accept a doctrine of God that placed authority/obedience at the heart of the Triune God. The doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father is an impoverished view of the Trinity.

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