Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Trinity and the Deathly Hallows


In my seminary classes, I am constantly thinking about how to translate theology into metaphors that youth and young adults will connect with. This analogy is too esoteric for youth group, but I had to share it.

In Philosophy today we were talking about the Trinity and how part of the problem is that we have trouble understanding how one God can be Triune (three in one). We often get a diagram that looks like this:

The Father is God, but the Father is not the Son, etc. This gets rather confusing, especially because now we get the idea into our heads that there are four parts because that's what it looks like.

Part of the problem is that when we think about God, we usually have this anthropomorphic (humanish) idea of God. Sort of like Zeus or Thor of or the Old-Guy-with-White-Beard image of God. Then we try to split that guy into three. Which is weird.

So Dr. Soulen gave a metaphor that I was trying to translate into pop culture references, and here's what I came up with:

The Deathly Hallows is made up of the Elder Wand, the Invisibility Cloak, and the Resurrection Stone. Together they are the Deathly Hallows. The Elder Wand by itself isn't the Deathly Hallows, but is still part of the Deathly Hallows. These are three objects that are collectively something else. When Harry had the cloak all those years he experienced part of the Deathly Hallows, but he didn't know the whole picture.

I was walking along Nebraska Ave. today, pondering this, and I joked to myself "Hallows or Horcruxes?" Then it hit me -- Hallows and Horcruxes are opposite ideas. Horcruxes are subtractive - splitting a soul into bits that can't easily be reconciled. Since the 1st Century, we have struggled to with the Trinity because we tend to start with a vague idea of God and split it into three. It feels unnatural.

Hallows are cumulative. The objects together ARE the definition of the Deathly Hallows. Rather than figuring out how to imagine dividing one God into three parts (God/3=Father, Son, Holy Spirit), our definition of God needs to be

Father + Son + Holy Spirit = God

In other words, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make up our picture of what God is, together. The attributes of each create our definition of God. The Hallows separately are magical objects, but together the have the power to overcome death. Together the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are a God who is everywhere, knows everything, hears everyone, intercedes for us, and knows what it is to be human.

Does this make sense?

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