Framing God

by Steven Poole on June 30, 2006

The Holy Trinity is getting a makeover:


When referring to the Trinity, most Christians are likely to say “Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.”
But leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are suggesting some additional designations: “Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child and Life-giving Womb,” or perhaps “Overflowing Font, Living Water, Flowing River.”
Then there’s “Rock, Cornerstone and Temple” and “Rainbow of Promise, Ark of Salvation and Dove of Peace.”
The phrases are among 12 suggested but not mandatory wordings essentially endorsed this month by delegates to the church’s policy-making body to describe a “triune God,” the Christian doctrine of God in three persons.
The Rev. Mark Brewer, senior pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church, is among those in the 2.3-million-member denomination unhappy with the additions.
“You might as well put in Huey, Dewey and Louie,” he said.

Some of the other proposed phrases include “Sun, Light and Burning Ray”, or even “Fire That Consumes, Sword That Divides and Storm That Melts Mountains.” This is a reaction to the supposedly “patriarchal” nature of the usual way to express the Trinity. I say, why not? I like the imagistic poetry of the alternatives. It reminds me of the names for movements in Chinese martial arts. How about “White Crane Spreads Its Wings, Green Dragon Emerges from the Water, and Step Back to Ride the Tiger”?

{ 122 comments }

1

Alejandro 06.30.06 at 4:51 am

How about Rock, Paper, Scissors?

2

Ray 06.30.06 at 4:51 am

The new suggestions are pretty bad, but they have the redeeming feature of describing three related things. The Holy Ghost in the Trinity is such a bizarre and pointless add-on.

3

Brendan 06.30.06 at 4:54 am

How about rum, sodomy and the lash?

4

Ginger Yellow 06.30.06 at 5:13 am

Damn. Alejandro beat me to it.

Also, if they’re worried about the patriarchal connotations of the conventional Trinity, it might be a better idea for them to find a non-patriarchal religion. Symptoms, cause, yadda yadda.

5

stostosto 06.30.06 at 5:47 am

The Economist, when reporting on religion in America compared with Europe, emphasises its vibrant, innovative quality which it ascribes to the pluralism of churches competing in the religious marketplace. This could be seen as an example of that. I mean which of the stale state-supported and/or hierarchically burdened European churches would think of encouraging a contest on renaming the Trinity?

Personally I find it infinitely bizarre, but that doesn’t in and of itself distinguish it from so many other market place phenomena.

I think it’s an intriguing theory that Europe’s secularism is caused by the national churches having a de facto, state supported monopoly on organised religion.

What does that say for the issue of separating church and state?

6

Ray 06.30.06 at 6:05 am

Of course, the easy way of making it non-partriarchal would be to change to “Mother, Father, and Child”
(and you can swap out ‘Father’ for ‘Other Mother’, and vice versa, to taste)

7

Nick 06.30.06 at 6:27 am

“Lions and Tigers and Bears! Amen!”

8

engels 06.30.06 at 6:43 am

(1) Invade their countries,
(2) kill their leaders
and (3) convert them to Christianity

9

abb1 06.30.06 at 6:49 am

Lock, Stock, & Barrel

10

Dave F 06.30.06 at 7:01 am

The Holy Ghost has a specific symbolic function: the Trinity is in essence Mind, Body and Spirit. Pretty straightforward. I suppose you could have Wine, Women and Song.

I am an atheist.

11

Richard J 06.30.06 at 7:10 am

This is reminding me of the more ironically pedantic chapters in Gibbon about the evolution of Catholic doctrine on the Trinity.

12

Barry 06.30.06 at 7:11 am

stostosto: “The Economist, when reporting on religion in America compared with Europe, emphasises its vibrant, innovative quality which it ascribes to the pluralism of churches competing in the religious marketplace. This could be seen as an example of that. I mean which of the stale state-supported and/or hierarchically burdened European churches would think of encouraging a contest on renaming the Trinity?

Personally I find it infinitely bizarre, but that doesn’t in and of itself distinguish it from so many other market place phenomena.

I think it’s an intriguing theory that Europe’s secularism is caused by the national churches having a de facto, state supported monopoly on organised religion.

What does that say for the issue of separating church and state?”

IIRC, there’s higher religious attendance/belief in S. Europe than in N. Europe, but lower religfious diversity. I’ve never seen advocates of the ‘marketplace of religions’ theory looking at intra-Europe comparisons, just Europe vs. USA. I wonder why? I imagine that a USA/Mexico comparison would show the same thing, that religious diversity was negatively correlated with religious beliefs and attendance.

13

Kang de Veroveraar 06.30.06 at 7:12 am

The folks working for the Economist have their heads firmly stuck up their arses. The piece you are referring to is just a typical example of the slavish pandering to the GOP that characterizes its editorial line these days.

First of all, though I suppose there’s something to be said for the influence of a comparative lack of diversity in the secular outlook of most Yurpeans, the nature of organized religion in the different European nations crystallized well before the modern concepts of markets or competition were articulated. You know, the Reformation, the wars of religion, etc. are sort of relevant. If the religious mainstream in, say, Spain has always been Roman Catholic it’s due to the Counter Reformation, the Inquisition clamping down on heretic texts and the fact that boasting old Christian blood was “in” back in the day.

In other words, it’s the state of yore, not the state of today that’s among other things at the root of today’s differences between America and Europe.

Then there’s of course the fact that America has always been a land of immigration, inured to the often strained coexistance of the different persuasions brought into the land by the flows of newcomers.

The Enlightenment was a somewhat different experience on both sides of the Channel and, by extension, the pond. Though separating the French and the British Enlightenment is very tricky, and generalizing about any of both is even trickier, one could conceivably argue that there’s a stronger anticlerical, irreligious streak in the former than in the latter. Think of (the pop version of) Diderot vs. (the pop version of) Locke.

God is firmly enshrined in the American Constitution, while Hébert and Chaumette were busy creating a cult of the Goddess of Reason in 1793.

Then there’s obviously Marxism, that didn’t go down in America the way it did in Yurp.

Oh, and there’s no such thing as a uniform, Europe-wide approach to the issue of the separation between church and state.

That’s only off the top of my head. A lousy sketch of an argument, but enough nonetheless to establish that the Economist is full of shit.

14

Christmas 06.30.06 at 7:22 am

We really do need more atheists.

15

bad Jim 06.30.06 at 7:30 am

Heinrich Böll wrote a short story about a radio engineer who collected recordings of silence.

He scored when he edited a radio play for which, at the last moment, it had been decided that its climactic unanswerable questions would be better answered with “God” than the unanswers originally unrecorded. It so happened that the engineer was already provided with just the snippets needed, because an insufferable pontificator had decided that he needed to replace his previous references to “God” with “That being whom we adore.”

He played his carefully collected silences to his girlfriend, and she seemed to enjoy it.

16

Rasselas 06.30.06 at 7:42 am

There aren’t that many of the many, many things wrong with the organized churches that one can blame Jesus for, but the Big J called God “Father.”

17

mykej 06.30.06 at 8:02 am

So we can now argue about whether or not the living water has always coexisted with the overflowing font, or if the water only came into being recently.

Nobody’s suggested Moe, Larry and Curly yet? Hail Shemp, full of grace…

18

Ray 06.30.06 at 8:05 am

In ‘Mind, Body, and Spirit’, what is the difference between ‘Mind’ and ‘Spirit’?
How about Fire, Ice, and Lukewarm Water?

19

Delicious Pundit 06.30.06 at 8:12 am

Red, Hot & Blue
John, Paul & George
The Father, the Son & the Goalie Host
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread & Thou
Rum, Romanism & Rebellion
Black, White & Read All Over
Control, Alt & Delete (one needs all three together to reboot one’s life; the Mac Synod worships Option, Apple & Escape, of course)

This is fun.

20

chris y 06.30.06 at 8:22 am

Fish. Barrel. Ready, aim, fire!

Christian is as the Council of Nicaea does. If you can’t accept it, fine. I don’t. You can embrace atheism, or new age paganism, or Universalist Unitarianism or Giveallyourmoneytochrisism. But playing word games with the tenets of a well understood religion to suit your tastes when you can no longer subscribe to them just makes you look like a blithering idiot. And not even a Christian one.

21

Kieran Healy 06.30.06 at 8:27 am

Location, location, location.

22

chris y 06.30.06 at 8:29 am

Hell, Hull and Halifax

23

Matt 06.30.06 at 8:40 am

Burger, Fries, and a Coke is my choice.

24

Kenny Easwaran 06.30.06 at 8:44 am

Actually, I’ve always found the concept of “Holy Spirit” quite confusing, and several of these have helped clarify it in my mind. Certainly, most of the “suggestions” made in the comments here don’t bear the structural relations to one another as most of the ones mentioned above do. “Mother, Father, and Child” is the only one of these that looks like a serious suggestion, but it just doesn’t work.

As I (an atheist) understand the Trinity, the first person is the creator, the second is the word made flesh in order that we may be saved, and the third is something like the vehicle by which the divine enters into us?

Admittedly, I don’t quite see how “rock, cornerstone, and temple”, or “fire…, sword…, and storm…” fit this pattern either, but most of the others work quite nicely, and seem to make God much more divine than “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” does.

25

chris y 06.30.06 at 8:45 am

Bacon, lettuce and tomato
The long and the short and the tall
Lord Longford, Ted Short and de Gaulle
Life, the Universe and Everything
Sun, sea and sand
You, me and the gatepost

26

abb1 06.30.06 at 8:53 am

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

27

Seth Gordon 06.30.06 at 8:53 am

God~0~, God~1~, and God~2~?

(so I’m a geek. so sue me.)

28

Uncle Kvetch 06.30.06 at 8:54 am

As I (an atheist) understand the Trinity, the first person is the creator, the second is the word made flesh in order that we may be saved, and the third is something like the vehicle by which the divine enters into us?

Mmmm…something like that, yeah. I think.

I’m a product of 12 years of Catholic education and I never quite got it either.

This is a reaction to the supposedly “patriarchal” nature of the usual way to express the Trinity. I say, why not?

Why not indeed? I agree that the proposed alternatives are a bit–well, silly–but I can’t help but applaud the effort.

29

Seth Gordon 06.30.06 at 8:54 am

A pox on Textile…that was supposed to be

God ~0~, God ~1~, and God ~2~

30

Mrs Tilton 06.30.06 at 9:00 am

Ted, Dougal & Jack.

31

abb1 06.30.06 at 9:01 am

It can’t be “God 0, God 1, and God 2”, for there’s only one.

32

David 06.30.06 at 9:26 am

Actually, as a Presbyterian myself [Do any of the people commenting on this know anything about Presbyterianism?] I find this ruckus really silly. The General Assembly said nothing that individual congregations haven’t been doing for years, and with reasonable theological warrant [Do you really think Christinity stands or falls on whether the First Person of the Trinity is male? My, how atheists and fundamentalists make common cause]. Yes, to an outsider it looks ridiculous; but to this outsider to CT *you* look ridiculous.

33

dave 06.30.06 at 9:29 am

#30 is good: The trio does fill those positions like the Pratchettian “Maiden, Mother and …the other one”. Now there’s a thesis: “Father Ted as an exploration of modern witchcraft in Ireland”.

Can someone please translate “In the name of the rum, the sodomy and the lash” into latin.

#31: I was going to say that God isn’t a Highlander, but I’m not sure. “There should’ve been only one.”

34

Blar 06.30.06 at 9:31 am

So how do these work?

Compassionate Mother envelops Life-giving Womb, Beloved Child kicks Compassionate Mother, and Life-giving Womb expels Beloved Child.

Living Water infuses Overflowing Font, Overflowing Font floods Flowing River, and Flowing River whisks away Living Water.

Storm That Melts Mountains puts out Fire That Consumes, Fire That Consumes consumes Sword That Divides, and Sword That Divides breaks up Storm That Melts Mountains.

(with a tip of the cap, of course, to Alejandro)

35

John Emerson 06.30.06 at 9:33 am

The Holy Spirit, which can represent the future, or God as imminent in actuality, often has provided a way out from the rigidities of theologies based only on the Father, the Son, or the two of them together. Pentacostals feel the presence of the spirit. The Holy Spirit can can be ultimately liberating. (See chart below).

Pentacostals –> Gospel Music –> Rock n Roll –> Hot Sex for Everyone.

36

woodlawn 06.30.06 at 9:53 am

thesis, antithesis, synthesis

37

Martin James 06.30.06 at 10:09 am

For the CT congregation “me, myself and I” would be a more apt Holy Trinity.

Likewise, my CT atheist credo in relation to the above Trinity is, “I think,therefore,you don’t exist.”

Seeing the nice collection of atheists here,I have a question.

My favorite part of Madame Bovary is the line about the possibility of her father-in-law wanting to sleep with her because, after all, he was a man for whom nothing is sacred.

There seem to me to be levels of atheism from “don’t like organized religion”, to “God is a fairy tale”, to “God is an idea with no meaning”, to “I’m a person for whom nothing is sacred.”

I am curious as to what percent of atheists are in the camp of atheists for whom NOTHING is sacred.

38

abb1 06.30.06 at 10:14 am

You would have to define ‘sacred’.

39

ajay 06.30.06 at 10:17 am

Peter, Ray and Egon.

(“Ray – if someone asks you if you’re a god, YOU SAY YES!”)

40

Martin James 06.30.06 at 10:22 am

Abb1,

How about this. If a person has a concept or definiton of “sacred” and if that person believes something exists to which the term applies, then that person would not be in the category.

If pushed for a specific definition

“worthy of veneration or respect” will suffice.

41

Daniel Nexon 06.30.06 at 10:22 am

#12, 13 etc.

Aspects of this argument go back at least as far as Tocqueville, but the Economist is clearly channelling the rational-choice/marketplace of religion arguments most closely associated with Rodney Stark. Maybe the sociologists here can put this debate in better context, but the major issue with the argument is that it assumes a constant demand for religion and that, in consequence, the most relevant variable for religiosity/secularism is the structure of the “market.” Compare with, for example, Cassanova, who argues that Europe looks more secular because people have come to believe that being modern requires being secular (i.e., secularization theory has become a self-fulfilling prophecy).

42

Ray 06.30.06 at 10:42 am

32 – why do you think the bit people are finding amusing is the suggestion that God isn’t male?

35 – can you unpack ‘God as imminent in actuality’ a little, because to me it sounds like ‘God as present in the universe’ which in turn sounds like the Son’s role. As I said, God the Father that creates the universe and God the Son who was embodied in human form seem to have the main bits sewn up, leaving God the Holy Spirit with the scraps. Any religious historians going to explain why a trinity? Was there a sale on triune natures that month?

39 – I don’t think there are many people who believe nothing or nobody is worthy of respect – at the same time, I’d understand ‘sacred’ to mean something a little stronger.

43

Daniel Nexon 06.30.06 at 10:44 am

People used to kill one another over the Trinity.

‘Nuff said.

44

Kieran Healy 06.30.06 at 10:49 am

Sociological context “coming right up”:http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.soc.27.1.261 (erm, if you have access to the Annual Reviews website). Bottom line:

bq. We have done two things in this essay. First, we have weighed the evidence on religious pluralism contained in the relevant large-N studies. Second, we have used comparative and historical evidence drawn mainly from Western Europe and North America to assess the empirical and conceptual scope of the claim that religious diversity increases religious pluralism via market competition. Our conclusion is simple. The claim that religious pluralism and religious participation are generally and positively associated with one another—the core empirical hypothesis of the market approach to the study of religion—is not supported, and attempts to discredit countervailing evidence on methodological grounds must be rejected. A positive relationship between religious pluralism and religious participation can be found only in a limited number of contexts, while the concepts themselves translate poorly to nonmodern settings.

45

Adam Kotsko 06.30.06 at 10:50 am

There have always been various alternatives to “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Augustine also calls the Son the Image and the Word and calls the Holy Spirit the Gift and Love — you can just call the Father “God,” since the Father is supposed to be the point of origin of the Trinity. More generally, since the doctrine is notoriously hard to understand, formulas somewhat like what the Presbyterians are recommending have always been part of the vocabulary for explaining it.

It doesn’t change the essence of Christianity if different metaphors are used alongside the one that has become dominant in liturgical usage (probably due to Jesus’s command to “baptize in the name of the F, S, and HS” in the gospels).

So Chris Y is wrong. Also, Martin James is an ass. What does the “sacred” have to do with basic morality? There are plenty of atheists who are very moral people and would never sleep with their daughter in law.

46

marcel 06.30.06 at 10:53 am

Kang de Veroveraar (13 above): Just as it is Yurp, it’s merka!

Ray (41): I recall Edmund Wilson somewhere asserting that trinities were fairly common in ancient religions, derived from triangles and ultimately from phalluses. I read this in or before college, at which point it struck me as a peculiar line of reasoning. Having run into many more bizarre lines of reasoning since then, it still strikes me as peculiar. But you can take it for what (you think) it’s worth.

47

marcel 06.30.06 at 10:54 am

I meant “Ray (42)”

48

Adam Kotsko 06.30.06 at 10:58 am

Ray, The baptismal formula is probably the main thing. When the Arians started saying that the Son was less than the Father, the proto-orthodox countered by saying that there are no degrees of “godness” — you’re either God or creation, no in between. With that binary in mind, they argued that since baptism saves, and only God can save, then therefore the Son must be God — the Holy Spirit kind of got taken along for the ride (at least from the perspective of where the controversy actually focussed).

Most theologians would actually say that the Holy Spirit is more intimately involved with creation than the Son — the Son became incarnate in a discrete event, but the Spirit is continually with the church, or is what makes the church the church.

49

Ray 06.30.06 at 11:03 am

I would guess that at least part of the reason for the difference in religiosity is geographical mobility. The US has a lot of immigrants, and a lot of internal movement. A church offers a way of meeting people in a new land, or a new city, who have something in common with you. When you feel isolated, any way of rooting yourself becomes more important. (See also the way Irish-Americans emphasise the Irish part of their heritage, and support nationalists, Irish dancing, trad music, etc)
Less geographical mobility in Europe, therefore less need to identify with religious communities.

50

C.J.Colucci 06.30.06 at 11:05 am

Far be it from me to enter into a dispute over the House Rules of someone else’s house, but wasn’t the second person of the Trinity, one Yeshua Ben-Yusuf of Galilee, an actual male — that is, assuming he had a physical body at all, though if he didn’t, he certainly created the impression of being a male, or — but that way lies madness, or heresy, or bloodshed.

51

Ray 06.30.06 at 11:05 am

Adam, what I’m wondering is more, why was there a Holy Spirit to be taken along for the ride? Why not “God the Father and God the Son are both equal parts of the divine nature”

52

abb1 06.30.06 at 11:05 am

Suppose we define ‘sacred’ as ‘taboo’ (as popularized by Freud). Then I suspect that atheists are affected pretty much to the same extent as the theists.

53

francis 06.30.06 at 11:07 am

didn’t i read once somewhere that the whole idea of the Trinity was based on a mistranslation from Greek to Latin of one of the early gospels?

ah, wiki to the rescue.

my contributions: Peter, Paul and Mary.

Earth Wind and Fire.

The Beatles, the Stones and the Who?

54

Kang de Veroveraar 06.30.06 at 11:12 am

Re: daniel nexon
“Aspects of this argument go back at least as far as Tocqueville, but the Economist is clearly channelling the rational-choice/marketplace of religion arguments most closely associated with Rodney Stark. Maybe the sociologists here can put this debate in better context, but the major issue with the argument is that it assumes a constant demand for religion and that, in consequence, the most relevant variable for religiosity/secularism is the structure of the “market.” Compare with, for example, Cassanova, who argues that Europe looks more secular because people have come to believe that being modern requires being secular (i.e., secularization theory has become a self-fulfilling prophecy).”

That’s really interesting. I wouldn’t outright dismiss the relevance of “marketplace of religion” theories*, but that’s not the point. What I’m taking issue with is the notion that the state plays a fundamental role in the determination of the “structure” of said religious marketplace. It’d say that the prevailing outlook on religious matters in any given society (and particularly in modern, democratic ones) tends to be the result of complex historical developments that stretch over centuries and are for the most part utterly beyond the control of contemporary authorities. That’s hardly rocket science.

What the Economist is clearly channelling in my opinion is this: America=market, good; Europe=mucho estado, bad; target audience=buy, yes?.

Reader=patronized, I say.

*:I wouldn’t deny that there is some amount of “intrinsic” interest in religion/spirituality that manifests itself to a lesser or greater degree throughout the history of mankind. OTOH, assuming “a constant demand for religion” smacks too much of a hopeless chase after the most elusive of questing beasts in the history of social sciences, i.e. “human nature”.

Also: Sex, Drugs & Rock’n’Roll

55

t e whalen 06.30.06 at 11:24 am

Tinker, Evers, Chance.

56

Kang de Veroveraar 06.30.06 at 11:24 am

Oh, and upon closer consideration:

#44 sounds convincing, and

“religious pluralism and religious participation… the concepts themselves translate poorly to nonmodern settings”

is definitely on the money.

57

dearieme 06.30.06 at 11:37 am

Leg break, top-spinner, googly.

58

Brett Hendrickson 06.30.06 at 11:44 am

I guess I’ll add my two cents, since I may be the only Presbyterian minister who reads this thing…

In the Presbyterian tradition, there have long been debates as to what extent names for God are analogical. It has been consensus that all names for God (and God’s trinitarian persons) can never be more than analogues that point to an unspeakable reality. In other words, “Father” no more describes God fully than “Holy Womb.” However, names found in the biblical text have been privileged as more authoritative than other names. The silly part of the new document is that it suggests so many names for the Trinitarian elements that are extrabiblical, when in fact, there are wealth of non-gendered names for God in the Bible itself.

As for all of you commentators who came up with cutesy little triads, good for you.

59

Martin James 06.30.06 at 11:48 am

Adam(first Man?),

I am an ass (after all, I only read Flaubert in translation) , nevertheless, Flaubert was the one that connected “sleeping with a daughter-in-law” with “nothing being sacred”?

If this offends your sense of basic morality, its possible you may be a prude and a bigot for

1. Holding the preposterous notion that a legal fiction like marriage creates a basic moral restriction

and

2. Thinking someone is an ass for believing that the concept “sacred” is more a fundamental and interesting notion than “moral”.

60

Uncle Kvetch 06.30.06 at 11:48 am

What the Economist is clearly channelling in my opinion is this: America=market, good; Europe=mucho estado, bad; target audience=buy, yes?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen it summed up quite so pithily. Nicely done.

61

blah 06.30.06 at 11:55 am

Tom, Dick and Harry.

62

blah 06.30.06 at 11:56 am

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

63

The Continental Op 06.30.06 at 12:00 pm

Manny, Moe & Jack

Larry, Moe & Curley

64

Adam Kotsko 06.30.06 at 12:03 pm

Ray, The Holy Spirit got taken along because it’s included in the baptismal formula — it must be divine, too, because it’s impossible that we would be saved in the name of something non-divine. (A small heresy developed that said that Father and Son were equally divine, but the Spirit was lower — Athanasius viciously attacked it.)

At least, that’s how the actual arguments played out.

Martin, Yup, still an ass.

65

yabonn 06.30.06 at 12:08 pm

Bells, Whistles and Gongs?

66

abb1 06.30.06 at 12:12 pm

Adam, does this Spirit has anything to do with the one hovering over the water in Genesis?

67

Dan Kervick 06.30.06 at 12:18 pm

Olive Oyl, Sweet Pea and Spinach

68

Bro. Bartleby 06.30.06 at 12:31 pm

Wow! A whole room full of folks voicing the unpardonable sin!
As Jesus said, “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

Perhaps my poem will still these troubled waters.

Holy Spirit

spirit, wind, breath
and sketchy vagueness
rushing to creation
spoken into existence
breath of life
filling me — ah ha! awakens what will be
for all, dreams and visions, set loose, can you see?
listen up! I tell the truth
in conscience, little voices silenced
making room, for it to be

69

peter ramus 06.30.06 at 12:32 pm

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

Wans’t this already settled?

70

Adam Kotsko 06.30.06 at 12:33 pm

Abb1, The Church Fathers sure seemed to think so.

That’s one of the most surprising thing about going through and reading the texts from when these controversies were raging — a really significant chunk (sometimes even the majority) of the argument is focused on Old Testament texts. Biblical scholars today would of course never allow such anachronistic nonsense.

One particular bone of contention was Proverbs 8:22 — I know this reference off the top of my head because it came up so much. The figure of Wisdom (which was, notably, a feminine figure) was taken to be referring to the Son (or second person of the Trinity), and that verse implied that Wisdom was created, apparently lending support to the Arians. Make what you will of the various methods that the orthodox side used to explain it away — it shows that various names for the persons of the Trinity and non-male imagery were used from a very early date.

71

Steve LaBonne 06.30.06 at 12:49 pm

Guinness, Beamish and Murphy’s?

72

Steve LaBonne 06.30.06 at 12:49 pm

Molloy, Malone meurt, L’innomable?

73

abb1 06.30.06 at 12:51 pm

Yeah, I always assumed the Holy Ghost was the thing from Genesis. Maybe this is more typical for the Christian Orthodox religion which was practiced where I grew up.

74

Jon H 06.30.06 at 1:18 pm

Medeski, Martin, and Wood.

Though I rather like “Daddy, Junior, and Spook”

75

Jon H 06.30.06 at 1:18 pm

Clapton, Baker, and Bruce

76

Mrs Tilton 06.30.06 at 1:22 pm

David,

I am (like you) presbyterian, but (unlike you) find this all so much arrant nonsense, quite worth poking fun at.

Mind you, I concede there’s a good case to be made that the original formulation is also silly. But I think it was not silly through over-straining, as these latter-day things are. (And might not have been silly at all, if ancient Hebrew and Aramaic did not have, as I understand Hungarian does not, linguistic gender).

BTW, I know that one can find this sort of thing in presbyterian congregations, but I have never run across it myself, even in the narrower category of PC(USA) congregations.

Steve Labonne at 70:

I’m sorry, but on that question the answer must be a monotheism that would satisfy the strictest rabbi or imam; no room for shittuf. You redeem yourself, though, at 71.

77

John Emerson 06.30.06 at 1:45 pm

Jeez, Bro, I gave the Holy Spirit credit for rock n roll. What more could you ask?

78

Clancy 06.30.06 at 2:00 pm

Lather, rinse, repeat.

79

c 06.30.06 at 2:03 pm

Mercy, mercy, mercy

80

Clancy 06.30.06 at 2:04 pm

You gotta eat, you gotta breathe, you gotta move.

Okay, that’s an obscure one.

81

Bro. Bartleby 06.30.06 at 2:06 pm

77. Hey, cat’s out of the bag … it’s now between you and ‘the Man’ …

82

Winston Smith 06.30.06 at 2:10 pm

C. S. Peirce: Firstness, Secondness, Thirdness.

83

Steve LaBonne 06.30.06 at 2:16 pm

Here’s a really obscure Gerald Ford-era one for all those Earl Butz fans out there: A Tight Pussy, Loose Shoes, and A Warm Place to Shit.

84

abb1 06.30.06 at 2:20 pm

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

85

Bro. Bartleby 06.30.06 at 2:21 pm

Monastery Announcement!

At 4 p.m. (EDT) we will all gather here for a time of confession, repentance and absolution. This will be self guided, so don’t expect any hand holding. Oh yeah, atheist invited!

Shalom,
Bro. Bartleby

86

Steve LaBonne 06.30.06 at 2:23 pm

I’m sorry to hear you have so much to repent, Brother. Good luck!

87

M/tch M/lls 06.30.06 at 2:30 pm

Clearly it should be Tony! Toni! Toné!

88

Rasselas 06.30.06 at 2:34 pm

Do a little dance, make a little love, something else I can’t remember.

89

everstar 06.30.06 at 2:34 pm

Groucho, Chico, and Harpo

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy

90

gfb 06.30.06 at 2:35 pm

Kirk, Spock, & McCoy (somebody had to)

The Professor, Giligan, & The Skipper

91

Richard Bellamy 06.30.06 at 2:35 pm

Oh, c’mon. 86 posts and no one has yet identified the true meaning of the Trinity?

Boy Scout, Knight, and Warrior Queen.

92

Bro. Bartleby 06.30.06 at 3:25 pm

Crooked timber
burns in the desert night
outside — cicada

93

Brendan 06.30.06 at 4:07 pm

Oooh! Ah! Cantona!

94

mikeh 06.30.06 at 4:30 pm

Walcott, Weeks, Worrell

95

Alejandro 06.30.06 at 4:43 pm

Athos, Porthos and Aramis
Godel, Escher and Bach
Id, Ego and Superego (I like this one, who can psychoanalyze God?)

96

Brendan 06.30.06 at 4:53 pm

Of course, if we’re sticking with Chinese martial-arts move names, there’s always “Monkey Snatches the Peaches,” which is the poetic term for punching your opponent in the nuts.

97

engels 06.30.06 at 6:12 pm

Oh. My. God.

98

previously pre 06.30.06 at 8:33 pm

ah, wiki to the rescue.

Top of the wiki page:

…see Trinity (disambiguation).

BRILLIANT.

99

'As you know' Bob 06.30.06 at 9:00 pm

Coming late to the thread, I’m surprised it took this crowd until Woodlawn’s #36 for “thesis, antithesis, synthesis”.

Since somebody beat me to that one, how about
“Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt”?

“Abraham, Martin and John?”
“Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts?”

“Bell, Book, and Candle”

Neo, Morpheus, and (just for a bit of recursive self-referentiality…) Trinity?

Uh, let’s see, what else comes in threes?
Clutch, Brake and Gas?
Knife, Fork, and Spoon?

100

Syd Webb 06.30.06 at 9:11 pm

Kenny (#24) wrote:

As I (an atheist) understand the Trinity, the first person is the creator, the second is the word made flesh in order that we may be saved, and the third is something like the vehicle by which the divine enters into us?

Pretty much. “Creator, Redeemer and Spirit of Grace” is a standard formulation. So it is the Father who creates us, the Son who saves or changes us and the Spirit who maintains us in our state of grace. Sadly, ‘maintainer’ is not a particularly sexy or prominent role, as Vishnu of the Hindu trinity could also remind us.

Brett (#58) writes:

It has been consensus that all names for God (and God’s trinitarian persons) can never be more than analogues that point to an unspeakable reality.

Abso-bloody-lutely

However, names found in the biblical text have been privileged as more authoritative than other names.

True. F’rex in Matt 23:37 and Luke 13:34 Jesus compares himself as a mother hen. So while we are free to use feminine terms for members of the Holy Trinity such as “Life Giving Womb” or “God the Mother Hen” it will be the latter that is more authorative.

101

'As you know' Bob 06.30.06 at 9:14 pm

#88, Rasselas, “Do a little dance, make a little love, something else I can’t remember.”

I think that’s “…get down tonight.”

102

blah 06.30.06 at 10:21 pm

Snap, Crackle, and Pop.

103

dr ngo 06.30.06 at 10:44 pm

For God, for country, and for Yale.

(Characterized by a later wit as the greatest anticlimax in literature.)

104

Liam 06.30.06 at 11:31 pm

A full tank of gas
Half a pack of cigarettes
Sunglasses.

105

nick s 07.01.06 at 4:20 am

Joyce was there first: ‘the former and the latter and of their holocaust’.

106

Brendan 07.01.06 at 6:47 am

Either ‘Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew’ or else ‘Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb.’ Or any combination thereof.

107

John Emerson 07.01.06 at 10:52 am

Shadrach, Mesach, Abednago
Balthazar, Caspar, Melchior
Queequeg, Daggoo, Tashtego.

Each of the three persons also has three persons.

108

Shieva 07.01.06 at 12:05 pm

The Economist (which everyone seems to adore) also had an article mentioning that the UN is trying to decrease the use of exonyms. (Bear with me, it relates, I promise!)

I briefly looked into what reasons the UN was giving for this, and the best I found was the following: “In the opinion of the UN, the use of exonyms impedes global communication. In addition, their use is contrary to the UN’s basic principles concerning one name for one object and thereby obstructs efforts to create international uniformity in the handling of names.” (http://unstats.un.org/unsd/geoinfo/gegn22wp75.pdf)

Seems the UN should be less than pleased with the developments discussed in this post. The new names aren’t exonyms — at least, unless it turns out that God is a location! — but they’re relevantly similar with respect to what the UN seems to care about.

Though insofar as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one object (which is tempting to claim – they’re said to be one God, after all!)we’re already violating the UN’s basic principles . . .

109

Clancy 07.01.06 at 12:18 pm

Veni, vidi, vici.

110

garymar 07.01.06 at 3:29 pm

Winken, Blinken, und Nod.

111

Roy Belmont 07.01.06 at 8:23 pm

Stop, drop, and roll.

112

rogergur 07.01.06 at 11:03 pm

Shake, rattle and roll

113

engels 07.02.06 at 12:06 am

An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman.

114

abb1 07.02.06 at 3:57 am

A priest, a rabbi, and a minister?

115

bad Jim 07.02.06 at 4:35 am

A goat, a goose, a ghost.

116

Nabakov 07.02.06 at 8:24 am

Big Daddy, JC and the Spook

Milligan, Sellars and Seacombe

The Executive, the Legislative and The Judicial

Army, Navy and Air Force

Obe for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and go cat go.

117

abb1 07.02.06 at 9:58 am

Ah! I like “the Army and the Navy”.

If the Army and the Navy ever look on heaven’s scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.

118

Nick 07.02.06 at 1:29 pm

Oh dear me – ‘Father, Son & Holy Ghost’ is a convenient fiction, which half of Christianity no longer finds convenient & the other half does not regard as fiction.
‘Dove of Peace’ is a bit species-ist isn’t it?

119

KaraLynn 07.03.06 at 5:05 am

Christian is as the Council of Nicaea does. If you can’t accept it, fine. I don’t. You can embrace atheism, or new age paganism, or Universalist Unitarianism or Giveallyourmoneytochrisism. But playing word games with the tenets of a well understood religion to suit your tastes when you can no longer subscribe to them just makes you look like a blithering idiot. And not even a Christian one.

Thank you very much. I appreciate it when people who don’t agree with my faith tell those who also don’t agree to leave well enough alone. There are a kajillion religions on this planet, heck you can start your own if you want (Science Fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard did). One cannot change 2000 years of teaching to suit one’s own tastes. It’s been done before and proved to be disasterous.

120

glenn 07.03.06 at 7:09 am

Peter, Raymond and Egon.
(the Ghostbusters)

Coffee, tea, milk.

121

Alejandro 07.03.06 at 10:04 am

A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi?

122

Iorwerth Thomas 07.04.06 at 9:06 am

As an orthodoxish Anglican:

Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggarath.

What?

Mind you, I’m also fond of the Athanasian Creed (in the old version of the Book of Common Prayer), which attatches the word ‘incomprehensible’ to each of the traditional personages. I think there may have been some linguistic drift since that translation, but I’m less than certain of that…

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