Unfortunately, we must return to the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) General Assembly 2006. In “Presbyterians and the Trinity: Let Us Phrase” by K. Connie Kang, front page of the Los Angeles Times (June 30, 2006), the issue of naming the Trinity comes up again.

The article quotes from a committee report named “The Trinity: God’s Loving Overflowing” which was “received” (not “rejected” and not “accepted”) by the denomination. Along with more biblical- and orthodox-sounding phrases like “Creator, Savior, Sanctifier,” “Rock, Redeemer, Friend,” “King of Glory, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Love,” and “The One Who Was, the One Who Is and the One Who Is to Come” were these zingers:

  • Sun, Light and Burning Ray
  • Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child and Life-giving Womb
  • Giver, Gift and Giving
  • Rainbow of Promise, Ark of Salvation, and Dove of Peace
  • Lover, Beloved and the Love, and Binds Together Lover and Beloved
  • Overflowing Font, Living Water, Flowing River
  • One From Whom, the One Through Whom, and the One in Whom We Offer Our Praise
  • Rock, Cornerstone and Temple
  • Fire That Consumes, Sword That Divides, and Storm that Melts Mountains

Meanwhile, the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) was emasculating their own liturgical tradition apace. R. Andrew Newman comments in his article “’Our Mother Jesus’ — What has the Episcopal Church become?

At the convention’s closing Eucharist, the new presiding bishop preached, “Colossians calls Jesus the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn from the dead. That sweaty, bloody, tear-stained labor of the cross bears new life. Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation – and you and I are His children.” (Bolds mine)

As the Rev. Mark Brewer (senior pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church) puts it: “You might as well put in Huey, Dewey and Louie.”

In both the PCUSA and the ECUSA the revisionist phrases, proponents patronizingly explain, are to “correct” patriarchal language. They say the phrases are “suggested but not mandatory.” They claim the phrases are not divisive — but then turn around and say that to oppose the revisions is divisive.

As a result, the only mandatory place in PCUSA worship when Father, Son and Holy Spirit must be said is at baptism. (The ECUSA has the Book of Common Prayer where the traditional trinitarian language is still strongly embedded.) The rest of the time churches are encouraged to experiment with and to substitute any or all of the above phrases in order to avoid the traditional language of Father, Son and Holy Spirit — the main names God has explicitly chosen for himself.

In response to these developments, let’s consider a theological question and a worldview question.

The theological question is: To what extent can human language accurately describe God? (Here are three hints from the Bible.)

  • Hint 1: What does it mean in the Old Testament when it says “thus saith the Lord” or claims to speak with the authority of God?
  • Hint 2: What does it mean when Jesus said, “I did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Not one jot or tiddle of this law shall pass away until all is accomplished”?
  • Hint 3: What does it mean to say Jesus is “the Word” of God?

The worldview question is: Which worldview is going to control the discourse in the PCUSA and ECUSA: the biblical — or some form of paganism or pantheism?