Change Me

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth . . . We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father . . . We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified . . . . (The Nicene Creed)

Completed in the 4th century (C.E.), the Nicene Creed provided both a formulation and summation of the church’s ponderings on and nescient theological structuring of its concepts about God, particularly emphasizing God’s Trinitarian nature. It is no overstatement to say that before and since the Creed, theologians have labored to understand what it means to say God is concurrently one Being while three Persons (i.e., Triune), especially considering the connection, if any, between God’s Triune character and the additional claim of our being created in that God’s image, i.e., imago dei. This means that a statement about God might, also, include a statement about us. In other words, theological descriptions are equally anthropological descriptions.

Among those struggling to assess what it means to claim that God is Triune, Augustine (the 4th and 5th century Bishop of Hippo from northern Africa) is credited with taking the concept of the Trinity in an unique direction. This direction is not just toward anthropology but, also, toward psychology. The philosophical theologian Charles Taylor observes that Augustine positions rationality as “radically reflexive” by internalizing reason. This positioning is witnessed in the bishop’s effort to make “what matters to us . . . the adoption of the first-person standpoint.” (Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self, 130). We can consider Augustine’s work in his De Trinitate as illustrative of this movement inward, establishing an introspective-rationalistic foundation for anthropological determinations. That is, the search for the Trinity becomes an act of psychological self-analysis in an effort to detect vestiges of God’s image within each of us. As a kind of analogy, Augustine perceived that within the rational part of our soul just such a Trinitarian vestige lingers: “the mind, and the knowledge by which it knows itself, and the love by which it loves itself.” (Augustine, De Trinitate, 464) Or, as Augustine states, elsewhere, “But in those three, when the mind knoweth and loveth itself, there remaineth a trinity, mind, love, knowledge . . . .” (Augustine, Confessions, 317). As Taylor surmises, Augustine moved inward in an effort to approach God (Taylor, 121-124).

As Augustine demonstrates, looking toward God can organically lead to an assessment of ourselves. This week’s theme is Change Me. Such a consideration of how our faith impacts us individually and internally is inevitably an introspective exercise. In looking within ourselves, Augustine’s hope is that we might both find God (or at least fingerprints of God’s presence) and move beyond ourselves.

This week, we welcome Rev. Tonya Lawrence from Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta, GA as our guest preacher in chapel. Rev. Lawrence will challenge us to see ourselves, our self-worth, and our lives differently in light of God’s defining grace. Have great week and see you in chapel.

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