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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Trinity (and other Committees)

Last week I spent a torturous hour and a half engaged in completing an online Job Safety training module. As a supervisor in a large office this type of thing, regrettably, becomes part of my job every time a new government rolls out a new initiative or an old one decides to ‘refresh’ their documentation (code for ‘same thing, new wrapper’).

And since we have more than 15 employees we must, under provincial law, have a safety committee.

I suppose if you have to be on a committee, the Job Safety Committee is the one to volunteer for. Coffee and donuts monthly for doing … not much. Finding a spot to hang the first aid kit, I suspect. In case a paper cut really, really bleeds.

But committees generally? Not a fan. I came across a list this morning of the ‘Top 11 Ways to Guarantee an Ineffective Committee’ that sounded eerily familiar:

1.      No Accountability
2.      No Ownership
3.      No Authority
4.      No Budget

… and so on. You get the idea.

Of the eleven points, #3 is the biggest one for me: Lack of authority. By this the writer meant that the committee, to be effective, needs to have authority to implement the changes it comes up with.

But in my experience, the lack of that sort of authority is nowhere near as bad as the lack of authority within a committee. It’s not as bad as having nobody in charge. 

That’s deadly. It’s totally paralyzing.

It’s kind of antithetical to the whole modern ‘committee’ concept to look for a genuinely authoritarian presence within one. Most committees are comprised of a roomful of equals. They have a chairperson who speaks for the group and maintains some kind of order, but his or her authority is quite limited. The basic purpose of a committee is to distribute responsibility, collect ideas from a number of sources (and, I suspect, to increase the number of potential scapegoats responsible for any failed initiative so that no one employee needs to be thrown under the bus). They are equalitarian both in concept and, most often, in execution as well.

But the biggest time waster in the functioning of committees is when nobody has the final word.

Now sure, some committees manage to get things done even without ‘official’ leadership, usually because the strongest, most dominant, outgoing personality (or the most manipulative sadist) commandeers the wheel and drives the committee where he or she pleases. Not ideal, but functional.

But for any group of otherwise ‘equal’ people to produce anything or to work effectively — any group at all — somebody has to be in charge. That’s a non-negotiable, indisputable reality. It’s true in marriages, government, business relationships, church leadership … you name it.

Which brings up a fair question:

Why Are There Roles in the Godhead?

You may well stop me here and say, “Hold up, hold on, wait a minute. I don’t believe in a trinity”. Or possibly, “I do, but I don’t believe the three members of this ‘trinity’ thing are all equal”. Or possibly, “I recognize the concepts of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but I really don’t like the word ‘trinity’ ”.

If this happens to be the case (and/or you are Islamic, Unitarian, etc.) and tune out here, fair enough. Proving that is a subject for another day. But try Googling “equality of persons in the godhead” sometime just for fun. While you will find a few, nominally Christian dissenters, you will definitely notice that large numbers of believers give their assent to that particular doctrine and make a defense for it from Scripture.

Short version: The Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, the Holy Spirit is fully God.

Their intrinsic worth is absolutely equal. None is worthier than the others. For the purposes of argument, at least, let’s take this as a given.

The Authority Role vs. Intrinsic Value

The whole committee issue has me thinking about the difference between role and intrinsic value (or personal worth). The two concepts are often confused. Members of a committee are often equals on the job, but in order for the committee to function, one of the equals must either have authority delegated to him or her — or simply take it. Either scenario leaves room for other members of the committee to feel slighted and resentful if they equate the authority role with personal value and assume that not occupying a position of authority means that they are valued less.

To take the biggest, most significant example in the universe (if we can, I hope reverently, think of the Godhead as a sort of committee), each member of the Godhead is absolutely equal in worth, or in value. But each does not occupy the same role. They are all intrinsically equal but administratively there is, beyond dispute, both subordination and the taking of ‘roles’ in the Godhead.

·        Paul says “the head of Christ is God”

·        Jesus said “I can do nothing of my own” and “I seek not my own will but the will of him that sent me” 

·        The Father does not judge but has given “all judgement to the Son”

·        The Spirit does not speak on his own authority; he speaks what he hears

·        The day and hour of judgment is known by the Father only, not even by the Son, who will be the judge 

(Don’t make me keep riffing on this truth, because I can go all day. Scripture is loaded with indications, suggestions and blunt statements that the members of the Godhead perform different roles, some of which require subordination to other members.)

But none of this answers my question. Why are there roles in the Godhead? Why is there this manifest, demonstrable ‘inequality’ in the functioning of the counsels of God, even if it is only administrative?

See, absent an authority figure in the room, a committee of human equals cannot easily reach a conclusion or make decisions because each has a different opinion, a different personality, different character traits, a different agenda, a different emphasis, a different little political ‘fiefdom’ to protect, etc.

But in the Godhead, everybody agrees. Everybody wants the same thing. Everybody is subject to the same self-imposed moral limitations (God cannot lie, for one). In a committee of three in which every interaction is eternally and perfectly harmonious, none of the things that make human committees ineffective applies. The relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit is without any sort of natural, earthly parallel.

So Why the Roles If They’re Not Needed?

I can’t tell you. I hope you weren’t waiting for an answer to that, because I don’t think Scripture really tells us for sure (and I’m learning to speculate about such things as little as possible). I don’t know the ‘why’ of it, but we can see very clearly in Scripture that the roles are there and that the members of the Godhead take them very seriously.

What I can tell you is this: If, as a result of believing in Christ, you find yourself instructed by the word of God to submit to somebody, humble yourself with respect to somebody, serve somebody or obey somebody, whether it be government, parent, elders, husband or parents — and believe me, if you read your Bible at all, you will; you may even be asked to submit to someone that you do not consider your ‘equal’ at all — rest assured that it is NOT a comment on your relative worth, nor is it any indication of the extent to which God loves you.

In the kingdom of God, the authority role and intrinsic value may have little or nothing to do with one another.

That is certainly the case in the Godhead.

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