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PCUSA and the Trinity

I grew up going to 2 different churches because my parents were divorced. With my mom, I went to a Southern Baptist church. With my dad, I went to a PCUSA (Presbyterian Church of the United States of America). For those who are familar with denominational differences, you know just how different these two are. SBCer's are known for their resolute stand against women pastors, their declarations that homosexuality is a sin, as well as many conservative stands on most other doctrinal issues.

PCUSA have woman preachers (in my church, we had a female preacher for the last 10 years), the Session as a whole decided NOT to decide about homosexuality because it is too divisive of an issue, and as a pattern they take a liberal stand on most doctrinal issues. I am grateful for the marriage of these 2 denominations in my upbringing, because I learned solid biblical doctrine at the SBC church while getting a steady dose of reformed theology in the PCUSA church.

I have, at times, shaken my head in dismay by decisions of the leadership in both of these denominations. But the PCUSA assembly has just done the heretic. The PCUSA session passed a policy on alternate names for the Trinity. Now, I don't pretend to be an expert on the Trinity (for that I would recommend the teachings of Dr. Bruce Ware), but these names are tragic.

The allowed alternatives are:
1. Rock, Redeemer, Friend
2. Lover, Beloved, Love
3. Creator, Savior, Sanctifier
4. King of Glory, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Love
(The traditional "phrasing" is "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit/Ghost".)

Now, number 3, I really don't take issue with. I think those are accurate descriptions of the role that each of the entities plays. As for the 4th one, eh...Spirit of Love seems a little hokey too me, cause isn't the Father also the King of Love and the Son the Prince of Love?" The third one just plain doesn't make sense to me. Number 2 seems too small to describe my God.

Here are the “best” ones though. (And by best, I mean worse. Far far worse.)

5. Rainbow, Ark, and Dove
6. Speaker, Word, and Breath
7. Overflowing Fount, Living Water, and Flowing River
8. Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child, and Life-Giving Womb
9. Sun, Light, and Burning Ray
10. Giver, Gift, and Giving
11. Rock, Cornerstone, and Temple
12. Fire that Consumes, Sword that Divides, and Storm that Melts Mountains
13. The One Who Was, The One Who Is, and The One Who Is to Come

There is no distinction between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Number 13 seems reminiscent of the Sunday School illustration that the Trinity is like water. God is Ice, Christ is water, and the Spirit is Steam. The same element is all three. While this is true, water cannot be ice and water and steam at the same time. Along the same vein, God is and was and is to come. Christ is and was and is to come. Same with the Spirit. The same divine characteristics that apply to one apply to all. They are coeternal.

One reason the church gives for giving alternative names is that "Presbyterians should seek 'fresh ways to speak of the mystery of the Triune God' to 'expand the church's vocabulary of praise and wonder.'" The report even begins this way. Merely a way to further express the different aspects of the character of God.

Well, that motive in and of itself seems decent. BUT, there is of course more. Another reason for the change "...is that language limited to the Father and Son 'has been used to support the idea that God is male and that men are superior to women.'" While it is accurate that God is not male, that is the pronoun that God Himself refers to Himself as. That is how Christ refers to His Father.

The report goes on to say “…the church ‘should not insist on the exclusive use of the traditional Trinitarian names, lest we quench the Spirit and even foster idolatry. Such a view would insufficiently acknowledge the divine mystery, would neglect the freedom of God’s children to glorify God imaginatively with all our hearts and minds, and would diminish the joy of knowing God ever more fully.’”

These statements, coming from a denomination that places women over men in ALL positions of leadership are not unexpected. I think it would be easy for people to think "Eh, what's the big deal. So they are changing names. It's not REQUIRED. It's just an option and the motive isn’t really 100% wrong. Know this. The Presbyterian assembly that voted to pass this paper policy also "...sang a revised version of a familiar doxology, 'Praise God from whom all blessing flow'" that avoided male nouns and pronouns for God.
Praise God from whom all blessing flow
Priase Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Mother all creatures here below
Praise Lover above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Rock, Redeemer, and your Friend

(Note-This is just a proposed alternative version I came up with. I'm not saying this is actually what they sang.)

Perhaps men in the early church-Peter and Paul and Stephen-and wise theologians-Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, RC Sproul, and Al Mohler could refer to the Trinity in one of these ways and their doctrine be no weaker for it (although I think pigs would fly before any of these great men would do so.) But the issue goes much deeper than church leadership. It cuts right into the heart of the congregation and their view of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The lay person who refers to God as the mother is going to have an inherently incorrect view of who God is in His very nature. While people are not stupid, they are easily led by those they considered wise-church leaders are considered wise.

PCUSA leaders are conforming to the politically correct culture we live in. If God wanted us to know Him as our Mother, do you not think He would have referred to Himself, at least ONCE, as such? PCUSA leaders should not attempt to disguise their feminist gospel under the banner of understand the nature of God better. Seems like these line up more with the Brian McLaren and the Emerging Chruch than anything else.

No name will ever encompass all that there is to the Trinity. Our imaginations should not attempt to change that.

Great post . . . very insightful. I would say that Brian McLaren is not the ultimate representative of the emergent church . . . it is far larger and far broader than him.

nerd. that's your one comment on everything I said?
just kidding.

He may not be the ultimate representation but I think he is the most culturally recognizable.

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