This image of the Trinity is from here
A reflection on the readings for Trinity B: Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17 by Janine Goodwin
Evagrius Ponticus, c. 346-399, wrote,
"If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian." Some translations omit “truly” and say simply, “If you pray, you are a theologian.”
Let us now honor theologians, and in doing so, honor ourselves, for every one of us is a theologian. We may not all be academic theologians or advanced students of theology,but we are theologians. We may be a bit intimidated by the title; it took me a long time to learn how to pronounce the word theologian (emphasis on the “lo” if anyone else is wondering). We may wonder exactly what it means. It means a person who thinks and speaks of God. The parts of the word are theo, God, and logos,words. Even if we only speak to ourselves of God, we are theologians.
The passage from Isaiah strikes me as a testament to the importance of this theological task. The prophet tells us that if we neglect that task, if we listen but do not comprehend and hear but do not understand, we are not healed and the whole earth suffers.
Because our thoughts and words about God shape our faith, our worldview, and our actions, it is well to think and speak consciously and conscientiously. Being a theologian is a gift, a responsibility, and a risk. It is a gift because we are created to know and love God. It is a responsibility because our theology shapes who we are in relation to others: being a theologian is not a solitary vocation, but a community one. It is a risk because we are imperfect people and when people or groups are uncomfortable with a new insight, it may be condemned, and that can be very hurtful. Because we cannot know God fully or control God, we run the risk of being wrong about God or of having an insight for which others are not ready: we may not know in our lifetimes whether our insight is valid or not. If anyone places more importance on being right than on being together, the resulting conflict may split the community of faith.
It is especially necessary to understand this on Trinity Sunday, when we contemplate the mystery of God's being and acknowledge that we can never entirely understand or control that being. Theology is not about being RIGHT. It's especially not about me being RIGHT and you being WROOOOOOONG. At their best, academic theologians set a good example, writing back and forth and learning from one another. As in all human endeavors, the best is sadly rare. Groups of Christians draw lines and tell their members not to go farther in a given direction, and the conflicts around those lines draw undue attention; it would be easy to see theology as a series of food fights about the nature of God. That is taking the short view: when we study the history of Christianity, we see that rifts often heal and ideas are often reconsidered. Evagrius was condemned by the Fifth Evangelical Council. Nevertheless, some of his work has continued to be influential. It is as impossible to be completely wrong as it is to be completely right.
Theology, then is not about being right: it is about being unafraid to say what we think, feel, and know, taking responsibility for our own ideas and insights, and admitting that we may be wrong. It is about being part of a community of believers that has the responsibility to listen to us without fear or narrow-mindedness. Sometimes we fail, sometimes the community fails; we all keep going, and the mysterious God of love very often works reconciliation over decades or over ages. Catholic, Orthodox,and Protestant theologians make community where there was once only condemnation. Women join the theological conversations on all levels of study from laity to professor and clergy. I have come to believe that the more inclusive theology is, the more we know of God.
I have come to believe that because of my own theological education, which began in a home shaped by small splinter churches that were heavy on judgment and short on love and has continued in the Presbyterian, ELCA, Episcopal, and Catholic churches. No one church was entirely home, and in each I found great gifts and unexpected griefs and constraints. Through them all, I have moved from a child's perception of the Trinity as three mean men prepared to judge me for thinking bad thoughts about the playground bully to an appreciation of the Trinity as the mystery of God's infinite self and an assurance that there is a sense of community, of love, self-giving and sharing, even within God. God is not just the keeper of the rule book. This does not mean there are no rules; there are. It is our work to know them and consider what they mean, just as it is our work to interpret Scripture without assuming we have its full and only meaning. There is a living, loving God who reaches out to us and includes us in the work of creation, who makes us join theirs with Christ, and it is our work and our play to discover that God through scripture, reason, and tradition, and to tell each other the stories that come from our discoveries. Let us be theologians to one another. As we rejoice in each others' theology and in the Trinity, the Trinity will rejoice in us.