The Trinity is a key frame to my research and to the posing of the question. I will elaborate on my Trinitarian perspective later. For now, it is necessary to establish a Trinitarian understanding of the Word of God and how it is manifested in each mode of the Word. I will name the three persons of the Trinity, in this discussion of the Word of God, as they relate to the communication of the Word.1 The three persons of the Trinity may be named as the Author, the Symbol, and the Medium. Inherent in communication is that there is a two-way process happening between conversation partners. As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango.” If we are receiving a message from God, then God is, at some level, other than us. God the Author is the source of the Word, the initiator of the message being communicated, and that which is other in the conversation. However, any communication requires a symbolic system to convey meaning, and a medium of communication.2
The symbols of human communication are language, non-verbal bodily gestures, and images which can all be variously communicated through sound and light waves. Communication is an embodied, physical process. God the Symbol is the Word of God embodied, primarily in the person of Jesus Christ, but also in the physicality of communication itself. The Word of the Author is communicated through various forms of physical media throughout scripture–the burning bush, direct audible speech, visions, dreams, the voice of the prophet, the written word, etc–and is still communicated in this way today. The purpose for the incarnation of God the Symbol was to articulate clearly the intent of the Author and the essence of God, which is the other-oriented love for the world and the mutual indwelling of all things with God.3 Without the articulation of God the Symbol we would be left with vague notions of the Author’s intent. Yet, we must acknowledge that every symbol is not the idea itself. There is room for interpretation within the perceiver of the symbol and the invisible idea will always remain shrouded in some form of mystery. To engage with the symbol is to encounter the nearness and the distance of the Author, yet, without the symbol we have no access to the author.4)
The world is full of communication and the data being communicated are increasing at an exponential rate in our digital culture. The challenge to the one who would dwell in the Word of God is to discern which communication is from the Author and which is not. God the Medium—the Advocate, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit—is God at work in, with, under, against, and for creation to assist us in discerning the Word of God from a word that is contrary to God. I believe this is what the apostle John meant in 1 John 2 when he said that many antichrists had gone out from among them. He identified the liars as those who denied that Jesus is the Christ and he is in a mutually indwelling relationship with the Father, thus making Jesus God. John continued to encourage his readers that they had the anointing to teach them how to discern the false teaching from the message of the Author. (1John 2:18-29) In this passage we see how the Spirit is intrinsically connected to the Author and the Symbol. Without the Spirit to mediate the truth and empower us to see/know the risen Jesus, then we are not able to discern the message of God and follow God’s leading.
- This taxonomy is not one that I have read anywhere, but I am not claiming to be the first to name it. It follows the pattern of Augustine who drew several analogies/metaphors from the human experience to discuss the relationality of the Triune persons. All of these metaphors fall painfully short, and are categorically unable, to describe or define the Triune Relationality. Here I am simply attempting to use the metaphor of human communication to frame the Triune relationality as the Word of God. [↩]
- In my first attempt at this taxonomy I named the second person as the Medium and the third person as the Illuminator. Then I realized that the illuminator was not necessarily inherently present in the Word, but stood outside of the Word. I did this in recognition of our need for the Spirit’s illumination to discern the Word of God. However, upon further reflection, I realized that the incarnation was the symbol itself and that the Medium—that in which the symbol is conveyed, like linseed oil for pigment, or air for sound waves—is the work of the Spirit. [↩]
- Perhaps this is what Paul meant in describing Jesus as the image of the invisible God. Colossians 1:15ff [↩]
- John refers to the necessity of the Son to know the Father repeatedly. Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:1-14; 1 John 2:18-29 [↩]