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February 3, 2014

In today's Western society where the plurality of religions is a reality one encounters in daily life, knowledge of the different understandings of God found in those religions is an urgent task.

Karl Rahner, the 20th century theologian, famously wrote, "Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, mere monotheists." In the midst of religious plurality, this can no longer suffice. Christians must self-consciously become Trinitarian in their outlook and actions.

In its recent study, God the Trinity, and the Unity of Humanity, the International Theological Commission disputes the contention that monotheism inevitably gives rise to religious violence. (See story on Page 18.) This contention also maintains the moral superiority of polytheism since supposedly the existence of many gods teaches respect for difference.

One cannot comment much on the commission's report since it is currently only available in Italian. Nevertheless, one must emphasize that the core of Christianity is the assertion that God is not only one, but also three. God is a perfect harmony of three "persons" united in an eternal communion of love.

Polytheism, in contrast, is notable for, not respect for diversity, but constant warring among jealous gods.

The mere belief in the Trinity, however, does not get one very far. Distortions of Trinitarian belief can lead to other distortions, such as authoritarianism. If one's Trinitarian belief focuses mainly on the relationship between the Father and Son, one's God will be similar to the immature couple so absorbed in each other that they have forgotten the outside world.

As well, a spirituality focused solely on the Father would see God as a terrifying mystery who subjects humans to oppressive, arbitrary acts of his will. One could go on with other examples of distortions, all of which have reared their heads in the history of Christianity.

One's concept of God and of the relations within the Trinity affects not only personal spirituality, but also the organization of society. Finding out what God is like is something of utmost importance for ourselves and our world.

The prime requisite for this investigation is not scientific know-how, but faith seeking understanding.

God has revealed himself through the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has revealed himself as a Trinity, a communion of three persons whose love spills over by creating a world with humanity as its centre, a humanity that God's Son, in the person of Jesus Christ, must rescue. Such a Trinity is not idle speculation; it is the life and salvation of all./GWA