FR. AYODELE AYENI CsSP
June 4, 2012
Since we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity June 3, let us assess our understanding of the Trinity.
It would seem the Trinity has been given a bad name – mystery. To dismiss the importance of the Trinity as the foundation of inter-human relationships, contemporary society calls it a mystery, meaning that it is incomprehensible.
A mystery it is, but does that mean it is meaningless to a scientific and empirical society? Why should a mystery connote irrelevance?
Western society is proud of its democracy, as opposed to my sub-Saharan African experiment with democracy. By and large, democratic institutions work in the West. But what are the foundations of Western democracies, if not mysteries?
Although democracy fantasizes about its Greek origins, its Western version is largely dissociated with ancient Greek conception. Such theorists of Western democratic institutions as Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, René Descartes and Thomas Hobbes presuppose a "state of nature" in their theories.
That is, there is a grey area in democracy, there is a mystery – none of these theorists lived in the state of nature, but their reconstitution of an unknown or hypothetical state of nature has nourished democracy for centuries, like Gospel truths.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
Why should a democratic mystery make sense to contemporary society and not the mystery of the Trinity?
Contemporary democracy prides itself on its civility against the barbarity of the residents of the state of nature, when "man was wolf to man," as Hobbes famously wrote. The imperfect human society in its state of nature calls for democratic ameliorations – democracy perfects an imperfect society.
So how perfect is our society since Descartes (b. 1596) and Hobbes (b. 1588)?
If the state of nature created an imperfect society, the Trinity is the blueprint of a perfect society with a track record of reality, not fantasy. The experiences of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not shrewdly invented myths or mystery. The Trinity is a community based on love; the paragon of this love was made manifest in the Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.
Without the Bible, Descartes concluded that the epitome of the human person in the state of nature was "compassion," a conclusion in stark opposition to Hobbes' "human egoism." The Trinity is present in human theories, like Descartes', even when there are competing ideas and theories.
In the face of conflicting democratic theories, why has contemporary society not admitted to its fallacy of composition? An African adage says "a lie needs other lies to justify it, while the truth needs no justification."
If competing theories of democracy and society make sense to contemporary society, why does the Trinity not make better sense, with its model of a perfect society to be imitated by modern society?
The institutionalization of lies, as a viable alternative to truth, the Christian truth – which is one, universal and immutable – blinds the world's moral compass.
The 20th century institutionalized convention, instead of wisdom. Wisdom is divine, coming from God as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. To rule our society by wisdom is to accept an inconvenient truth – human beings came from and will return to God.
Conventionality, on the contrary, is handy, "give to Caesar what is Caesar's," without asking who owns Caesar himself – God.
During election campaigns, our manifestos have become an egoistic shopping list - what do constituents want, so that they can vote for us, not what our constituents need to remain human beings. Where there are no standards and yardsticks for morality, it is a matter of time – doomsday looms imminently.
"Sleep no more for Macbeth hath murdered sleep," says William Shakespeare. This time around, "be peaceful no more society, for conventionality has murdered our moral compass."
The Trinity, for a Christian, celebrates the origin and model of the human society. The Trinity is a clarion call that divine truth is the standard and yardstick for measuring morality.
In the Trinity is found authentic love, love as sacrifice. From the Trinity comes the idea of communion of human life, which goes beyond earthly affinities and introduces human beings into the divine.
In the Trinity is found time and eternity – the God who intervenes in human history and remains beyond history. By the Trinity shall our society be reformed and renewed, when we topple lies with truth, mystery with historical reality, theories with experiential wisdom.
All these are possible because God is with us – the Trinitarian God.
Spiritan Father Ayodele Ayeni is a sessional lecturer at Newman Theological College and pastor of Mary Help of Christians (Chinese) Parish in Edmonton.