Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Polling on the Trinity

Here's something very interesting from the Chicago Tribune. How about a poll asking about what anyone thinks would be a good substitute term for Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

You see, the Presbyterians are debating the issue at their national meeting and the Tribune apparently thinks it's something on which any American should have an opinion. Just as they should have an opinion on what substitute name would be good for Allah, right? Riiiiight.

I picked up on this story this morning as I get the Tribune's daily e-mail headlines. I clicked on a link which brought me to a poll with the following question: "Which of the following substitutes for 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit' do you prefer?" Here are your choices:

Rock, Redeemer and Friend
Lover, Beloved and Love
Creator, Savior and Sanctifier,
King of Glory, Prince of Peace and Spirit of Love
Mother, Child and Womb

(No, I didn't make up any of these -- I'm not that "creative" -- or, through God's grace, stupid.)

Now this poll was there when I clicked on the link at about 11:20 this morning. But then it was gone around 1:45. So I called the Tribune and asked where it had gone. I got this reply via e-mail from online producer Melissa Goh:
Thanks for your note. The poll was discontinued earlier today due to an editorial concern. The issue has been resolved, however, and you'll find the poll once again functional on your Daywatch newsletter, or you can visit:
Thanks again.

I e-mailed Melissa back and asked her what the concern was and how it was resolved, but got no reply.

What's interesting to note is that the second version of the poll has a "None of the above" option that was missing from the first one.

OK, so I don't mind the report about the Presbyterians. It's always good to know what goofy people are up to. But I do mind the Tribune asking every Tom, Dick and Harry what they think a good substitute for the ancient and venerable Trinitarian formula should be.

It certainly doesn't help that the Presbyterians think it's up for grabs -- that just makes it look like anyone can do anything they damn well please with Christian doctrine. It also doesn't help that certain Catholics are doing the same asinine thing.

Below is a commentary I wrote for the Drew Mariani Show on the subject, which pretty much gives full vent to my fury over this:
I’m not sure what the mainline Protestant churches are up to, but it doesn’t seem like it’s anything that’s really good. Yesterday, we talked about the Episcopalians and their moves away from traditional Christianity by ordaining women as priests and bishops. Today, the Presbyterians are meeting in Alabama and want to change the name of the Trinity from Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to, take your pick:

- Mother, Child and Womb; - Rock, Redeemer and Friend; - Lover, Beloved, and Love;
- Creator, Savior and Sanctifier; or King of Glory, Prince of Peace and Spirit of Love.

Now this was reported in the Chicago Tribune this morning, which is fine. It was a story they got from Richard Ostling at the Associated Press. But the Tribune has gone a step further. They have an online poll that asks readers, and I quote, “Which of the following possible substitutes for ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ do you prefer?” And then they give you the options that the Presbyterians are considering.

Now I don’t mind the Tribune reporting on what the Presbyterians are doing, in fact I appreciate that reporting because it lets us know how some folks are trying to contaminate and twist a doctrine that is the central reality of Christianity. But what I do mind is the Tribune asking everybody on the planet what they think should be used to substitute for something so central.

There’s a real problem here, folks. The problem is that this is a doctrine of the Christian faith that’s not up for grabs, it’s not up for an opinion poll from the Chicago Tribune. What do you think would happen if instead of asking about substituting Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Tribune asked, “Which of the following substitutes for Allah do you prefer?” You know as well as I do that they’d get all kinds of threats from Muslims – there might even be rioting in downtown Chicago in front of the Tribune building. Just look at what happened around the world with the cartoons of Muhammad.

What the editors at the Chicago Tribune have to understand is that just because the majority of Americans profess the Christian faith in one form or another doesn’t mean that its doctrines and practices are then up for debate by anyone and everyone. Secular Americans don’t get that, though. They don’t get the fact that what we as Christians believe is something that has been hammered out and lived for 2,000 years, that our brothers and sisters have gone to their deaths for their faith in the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the Presbyterians are debating this issue. It makes it seem to all the world that it is up for grabs, that anyone can define the Trinity as they want to. But like we talked about yesterday, that simply doesn’t work. Either God has a definitive being or He doesn’t. And if He doesn’t, then we have to start spelling the word god with a lower case ‘g’ all the time.

But that’s not what we know is true. We know that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that this truth is something that has come to us by way of revelation, not by philosophical or theological discourses. This is who God is and anyone who wants to redefine God by His attributes, rather than by the fact of His life in Himself is making an idol. Yes, you heard me right, folks. People who define God simply by His attributes and not by who He is in Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have made an idol for themselves. God is not simply the Creator, Savior and Sanctifier. Oh sure, the Father has created the world, the Son has saved us and the Spirit sanctifies us. But the Son certainly helped in the creation of the world, the Father cooperated in the saving of the world and the Holy Spirit does a lot more than sanctify us, no matter how great and difficult a work that is.

And don’t think that people haven’t talked about these kinds of crazy ideas over the centuries, because they have. The doctrines of the Church don’t come out of thin air, but out of lived experience and great conflict. But the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that Jesus promised would lead us into all truth, not into all confusion.

And that’s something the Chicago Tribune just doesn’t bank on. They don’t bank on the fact that God is really and truly present in His Church guiding her to all truth. So they think that such teachings are up for argument, that everyone’s got a valid opinion on it. But it doesn’t matter what people’s opinions are on it, truth is truth and you can’t get away from that. For the secular world to stick their relativistic noses into the affairs and teachings of the Church is simply out of place. Like I said before, they wouldn’t do it to Muslims because they’d be too afraid of their reaction, but they don’t care if they do it to Christians because they know Christians aren’t going to riot or make death threats, which I think shows just how shallow the secular media’s courage is.

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