To articulate *what* a thing is can be an act of appreciation, as when, after having eaten an exquisite variant of macaroni and cheese, the dinner guests go into great detail about the recipe.  Such an exchange shares the experience, turning it into a communal act of gratitude and enjoyment.  Every detail deepens the appreciation and converts a transient pleasure into something potentially monumental.  One can imagine scenarios where this particular macaroni and cheese dish becomes a favorite bit of family lore!

And on the other hand, to articulate *what* a thing is can also be an effort to tame it.  For example, when upper management, suddenly it seems, reworks all the metrics and assigns you the now-urgent task of reconfiguring reports and preparing them for, of course, tomorrow.  “Why on earth does this take priority over my other deadline?” you ask.  And at that point you begin filling the gap created by that question.  They’re confused, someone’s getting fired, the big boss wants something radically changed.  Whatever you fill it with, that is your attempt to define this uncomfortable and confusing situation into a manageable thought.

So what are we up to when theologizing?  Appreciating or taming?  Perhaps a little of each?  The question seems a particularly pertinent one when it comes to the Holy Trinity.  This doctrine about God only confuses two types of people:  Christians, and non-Christians. This admission, essentially, is how Rev. Dr. Burke opens his article The Trinitarian Journey.  And it’s true.  The moment one tries to articulate what the Holy Trinity is, or means, or implies, one finds oneself caught with implications entirely unintended, which beg to be tamed.  So while the faith filled person can’t remain silent, words fail.  So, in fact, we can begin with appreciation and adoration when speaking of the Holy Trinity (as Rev. David Drum does in Trinitarian Suffering and Comfort) and wind up having to tame the stray ideas.  Since the ascension Christians have done exactly this.  The history of doctrine and theology comprises, essentially, Christian efforts to prevent such stray ideas from tearing us apart.

In his article Rev. Burton article gives a thorough briefing on the array of dogmatic Trinitarian formulations through history.  He has solid command of the material achieving both precision and comprehensiveness in a relatively short a space![1]  He handles the material with disciplined restrain, withholding judgment as to relative correctness of things surveyed.  Rev. Burton also brings an enthusiasm to the subjects in a warm conversational style.  In effect, his own love of the Trinity comes through, enabled in part by treating doctrinal variations that remain within historically orthodox bounds.  His, after all, is as far from polemic as glowing review and comparison of five star dining establishments—but on the infinitely weightier and lovelier matters of our Holy God.

[1] I should like to poke fun at his use of the Creed containing the filioque.  It’s a fun subject for those so inclined. It’s also contentious for others thus inclined, and I am not. Kudos to Rev. Burton for mentioning so important a matter.

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