Trinitarian delight

11 June 2017
Trinity Sunday
Trinity A (RCL)

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

Paul Davies is an English cosmologist, teaching at the University of Arizona. He is interested in the question of why human beings perceive a “time arrow,” that is, why human beings perceive time as running from past to future. In all physical equations, time can run backward or forward without changing the nature of physical law (the second law of thermodynamics being the special case, but not enough to account for human perception). This questions is intimately tied to the question of the quantum measurement problem (what happens when human perception “measures” a quantum system; how does that perception cause the collapse of the wave function into an eigenstate?).

Davies suggests that the measurement problem (along with the anthropic principle — the realization that all the quantum number seem finely tuned to bring about the evolution of beings capable of perception), suggests the existence of an Observer (with a capital O). He argues that this is a more elegant solution to the problem than the multiverse, the idea that the universe branches into new universes with each possible collapse of any wave function into all possible eigenstates. This would imply an infinite number, and infinitely increasing number, of discreet universes. Using Occam’s razor, positing the existence of an Observer makes more sense.

Davies doesn’t go as far as suggesting this proves the existence of the Christian Trinitarian God, but it opens the possibility of talking about God. For Davies, this God is part of the universe, in much the same way it was for Spinoza (panentheism). But, once the door is opened, we can talk about a creator God. I find an interesting parallel to Davies’ idea in the creation story in Genesis 1. Beginning with the third day, after each creative step, God saw that it was good. A better translation might read, “God looked, and see, it was good.” And on the sixth day, God saw everything that God had made, and look, it was very good. The goodness of the universe depends upon the divine perception.

Zizioulas has traced the development of the Trinitarian concept of God. The idea grew out of the repudiation of the Greek idea of the necessary existence of the universe (that the universe was created at some point in time). This fundamentally requires a personal relationship between God and the created order, and persons can only “be” in relationship to other persons. At the heart of the deity, then, is relationship, and a fundamental relationship of gift. Persons are to the extent that they give themselves to one another. The Father (someday we will find language that isn’t gendered) gives of the divine self in the eternal begetting of the of the Son, and the Son returns the gift of self to the Father. The Spirit is the gift of love that passes between them. In the incarnation, the Son’s gift of self back to the Father looks like the crucifixion (because of human sinfulness) and resurrection (divine triumph), and the gift of the Spirit to Christ’s continuing incarnation.

Maximos the Confessor, whom Zizioulas reads, said that the creatures, in all their wild variety, are the gifts that the persons of the Trinity give to one another for the sheer delight of giving. This makes the creation story in Genesis 1 all the more profound. And human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, that is, capable of giving and receiving gifts and perceiving the goodness of creation.

Baptism into the name of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, is transfer into a new reality (or a restored reality) of self-gift and honor. This restores creation to its rightful relationship with God, and carries it back into the life of the Trinity. Our eucharistic offering is our priestly vocation to see the world, and behold that it is God’s very good gift to us, and offer it back to God in return, in a never ending Trinitarian dance.

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