The triune life God … online

Posted Oct 07, 2011 | New Media Project


By Verity A. Jones

Several weeks ago, Kathryn Reklis got me thinking about the Trinity, something I don’t do so much now that I no longer preach every week.

On this blog, Kathryn riffed on Catholic theologian Karl Rahner’s depiction of the “intimate relationship to God that grounds all human existence” as a “horizon of being.” She explains Rahner: “Every moment of being … has as its precondition an awareness of the transcendent God as the possibility of any existence at all. We are not aware of this awareness in an explicit way, but like a horizon always pulling us forward, this ‘pre-apprehension’ grounds our existence in God’s existence and draws us toward God in love.”

Kathryn ponders what it might mean to re-envision this particular image for God in a social media world in which users dig down deep through hyperlinks and retweets and posts into ever expanding arenas of ideas and connections that pull us forward.

Her riff: What if God is “not a receding horizon making experience possible but the thickening web of interconnectivity, the relationship between all other relationships?” She concludes, “What do we know about ourselves and our world theologically if the divine possibility of all our knowing can be imagined as the hyperlinked connections of our digital experience?”

This provocative line of questioning got me thinking, yes, about a doctrine of the Trinity (and I welcome you more astute theologians out there to correct, confirm, push back, and/or pull along this line of thinking!). We imagine God’s triune life as something profoundly relational—God in three persons, indivisible in perfect unity and at the same time distinct, each fully existing in the other and at the same time emanating in different modes or actions. All this activity, this “community of action” as theologian Kathryn Tanner calls it in Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity (Fortress Press, 2001), “is the life of the triune God,” and it makes possible the very communities of action, the relationships, we have in human life.

What if we imagined this triune life of God as Kathryn Reklis’ “thickening web of interconnectivity, the relationship between all other relationships?” Let’s start with the image of the thickening web itself? Sometimes I find it pulls me in directions I don’t want to go, for example, interacting on Facebook with people I said good-bye to 25 years ago at high school graduation. Yet I also recognize that this great and varied web of relationships online that alternately confuses and enrages me may, in fact, look more like the heaven scripture has taught me to hope for than does my own fairly homogenous Indiana congregation. Is it fair to imagine that it may be God who is pulling me into this difficult thickening web of interconnectivity, perhaps into God’s own blessed triune self?

Most of the bloggers on this site have at some point in their writing attended to physical relationships among human beings, from finding pastors on Facebook (Monica A. Coleman) to rating pastors (Lerone A. Martin), from teaching music to children (Jason Byassee) to feeling empathy for friends who suffer (Jim Rice). Is the triune God, the community of action, not present in these relationships regardless of whether they are digital or not? Could we not see God as the very relationships that hold these people together whatever form the tie might take? I was recently told about a young pastor who prays over her friends’ Facebook posts as a Lenten devotional practice. I can imagine that if I did the same, the pull I would feel into the lives of people I may not know could indeed be God’s gift of love and grace for me and for them.

Verity A. Jones is the project director of the New Media Project, and a Research Fellow at Union Theological Seminary.

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