Pray Simply and Simply Pray
Sometimes theology can be complicated, such as in the great debates in the 4th century between Athanasius and Arius, regards the humanity and divinity of Jesus. We may shrug our shoulders and say why does it matter but it is important that certain doctrines have been pinned down.
One day, a couple of years ago, I was walking along the street in Paisley, not long after attending a class on the subject of the Trinity. I was stopped by two polite gentlemen with badges on their lapels which said; the Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ. Do you mind if we ask you some questions, one said. Go ahead, I replied. I cannot remember exactly what the question was but I do remember that I responded by saying that I was pleased to see the name ‘Jesus Christ’ displayed so prominently on their lapels. Thank you Sir was the polite reply. May I ask; does your church hold Jesus Christ as the object of their true worship. Of course, they said. Then, is he fully human and fully divine? Well he was fully human but he was the most divine person who ever lived. (This is not actually the same as saying that he is fully divine) Then, I replied, if he is not fully divine you worship a created being rather that the creator himself. In order to atone for our sins and be the object of our worship, Jesus must be fully divine and fully human. I was handed a card and advised to go to their web-site where I might find answers to such questions. That is the quickest I have ever seen a Mormon retreat!
Now having spent a whole module, over three months, studying the doctrine of the Trinity, I could not help but think how simple that argument actually is. Yet, the language used by ancient scholars is mind boggling to say the least e.g. were God, Jesus and the Spirit, homoiousios, of similar substance, or, homoousios, the same substance. But sometimes by wrestling with the difficult stuff we can begin to see, and find ways, of expressing our spirituality in simple terms.
Thomas Aquinas was a thirteenth century scholar who also dealt with some pretty treacly theology such as in the area of soteriology, i.e. the theology of the cross, or salvation. And as we move towards Easter, and begin to focus on the cross, it is not the hard theological stuff that draws our attention, important as that is, rather it is the simple obedient life that Jesus lived all the way to the Cross of Calvary, with all of its theological implications, that catches our attention. How do we, take up our cross and follow him?
Despite their highly intelligent contributions to the field of theology many scholars also wrote in very straight forward language which we can fully understand, such as this prayer by Aquinas:-
Give to me, Lord, a steadfast heart,
which no unworthy affection may drag downwards;
give me an unconquered heart,
which no tribulation can wear out;
give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.
Bestow upon me, also, O Lord God,
understanding to know you,
diligence to seek you,
wisdom to find you
and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you.
Thomas Aquinas, (13th century Italian theologian)