Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hierarchy and the Trinity

I’ve been intrigued of late with some of the controversy surrounding the book, The Shack. With over 4 million copies in print in just over a year it’s safe to say that this book is not ordinary. One of the arguments that has been used to prove how heretical the book is, is that it doesn’t portray the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a way that shows a hierarchical form of ruling. The pastors who are condemning the book on these grounds believe in their role as defenders of the faith and rulers of their flock. In a benevolent kind of way of course.

What’s interesting is what Jesus thought about hierarchical leadership. He gave a clear teaching on what he wanted His church to be ordered upon.

"Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:41-44

It’s strange that He would speak this way when according to those attacking the Shack, the trinity is the clearest examples of hierarchy.

The basis seems to be the idea of the language that the Bible has given us to describe God, especially the terminology, Father and Son.

For some, the Father rules over the Son. But here’s the challenge with this picture. Even though the relationship is defined as Father/Son it doesn’t mean quite the same as our idea of a father being first and the son second.

In terms of understanding the eternal God, there was never a time that there was Father without the Son and there was no Son without the Father. They are both God and have need of nothing or anyone to teach them.

Even in our natural thinking the idea of father and son as a hierarchy doesn’t really hold true. My dad is now 80 years old. Our relationship is not defined by who is in charge. Nor is my relationship with my sons defined by who has ultimate say or power over the other. We are equals. Sometimes, I’d like my sons or my father to do something. If they choose to it’s because of our relationship. If they choose not to, our relationship is not diminished because of that refusal. The same holds true when something is asked of me.

One of the great tragedies that we see in organized religion is the use of those in leadership roles thinking they have power over their flock. The very thing Jesus said for us to never do. In fact He said just the opposite.

Using the trinity as an excuse to show the need for hierarchy is a major cause of much of the dysfunction that is seen within the body of Christ.

No doubt exploring our understanding of God and the trinity is a big subject, filled with wonder and mystery. The one thing I’m pretty sure of though is this, God is not in any way, shape or form wanting to Lord it over us, nor does this idea of Lording over or even a hierarchy exist within the relationship of the trinity.

The Father’s passion is to please His Son. Jesus’ passion is to please His Father. Their passion is to serve us. And that's an incredible idea to consider.

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