I should give credit to "Quaker Oats Live" blogger Cherice for inspiring me to write on this topic.
For the past two years I have been involved with the Christian and Interfaith Relations Committee (CIRC) of FGC. As I visited various program committees of FGC Central Committee, I found that the sorts of business and discussions being carried out by CIRC excited and nourished me deeply.
(To disclose my personal biases, I will mention that I was born a Pentecostal, converted to the Mennonite Church, before becoming a nontheist Quaker. I have a deep respect for Christianity, the peace church traditions, and the positive contribution that they can make to the world.)
A few months ago, one of CIRC's sessions worked on a response to the World Council of Churches' initial draft "Toward an Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace." This document's final form promises to be a pivotal creation of the WCC's "Decade to Overcome Violence" which was called in 2001. In it, we find the fruit of dialogue between peace church, mainstream Protestant, Orthodox, and other Christians on peacemaking as a Christian calling. Never in history has this sort of pan-Christian undertaking occurred.
One of the amazing offerings of the draft document are its reflections on "The God of Peace as Revealed in the Holy Trinity." In these passages, the ancient mystical doctrine of the Trinity is pronounced to be the essential heart of Christian peacemaking.
"The oikos of the world and of the Church, the oikoumene of God’s design and purpose
therefore, are not arbitrary constructs. The oikos finds its meaning and purpose in the Trinitarian
perichoresis, an embrace of love, peace, and beauty. Building peace is our participation toward that
perichoresis, that eternal dance. Therefore, peace-building is not just about repairing what has been
broken, but about expanding and completing relationships that make the oikos the mirror of the
(The full draft text can be found here: http://www.overcomingviolence.org/en/resources/documents/declarations-on-just-peace/drafting-group/initial-statement.html )
What is being said here is nothing short of epochal in its implications for Christian peacemaking. I know the language can be obscure, so I'd like to explain the powerful message in this passage.
The Trinity doctrine describes God as three persons - as a community that is eternal and infinite. Polytheism describes a community of gods, but the gods are finite. Monotheism describes an Infinite God, but not a community. The trinity declares an almost unfathomable possibility, that the Infinite Being has always for all eternity been in love, sharing love. God the Father and Son and Spirit are not three successive beings, but three eternal persons with three wills, each infinite in their love for the other, and, as the quoted passage implies, this plural infinite love of the Trinitarian Communion (perichoresis) is also an infinite love for the World (oikos) in which we live, for each of us.
I recommend to every Christian to consider this mystical communion and its implications for their faith. If you are not a Christian, I recommend that you rejoice that Christians are trying to articulate and embody such a brilliant and explosive vision of infinite pluralistic love.
As an ex-Christian, maybe I have too sentimental of an attachment to my former beliefs. I do ask myself at times whether my religious naturalism can match the powerful beauty of this ideal Christianity. Of course, the truth is that for much of Christian history, the churches have not been very faithful to this vision of limitless love for the world. However, this document reminds me why I was a Christian for so very long and why I departed the faith so reluctantly.
I can see "love" in every speck of the universe, as the interdependent interchange of being. Every fragment of the cosmos gives itself to other fragments. Each of us are composed of uncountable zillions of fragments of being in relation and interchange with each other. While this may not look or feel like the love of the Trinity or even the everyday love we share with other humans, I submit that without the very basic physical forces at the source of existence itself, love as we know and imagine it are impossible. It may not be as powerful as the Christian vision, but then again, the Christian vision of trinitarian communion has the messy problem of evil, how could such a perfectly loving all-powerful Creator bring about a universe with so much innocent suffering? The answers of Christians to this challenge are many and intricate. Perhaps comparing naturalistic and Christian views of the problem of evil might be a future blog topic.