Unity and Difference
Some of this is mentioned or alluded to in some of the previous posts below, but I've been re-reading portions of Colin Gunton's excellent book: The One, the Three and the Many. Excellent read. I also have in the back of my mind David Bentley Hart's work: The Beauty of the Infinite. Maybe somewhere back there is also some of Barth's discussion of the Trinity in his Church Dogmatics 1.1. I'm probably stealing stuff from Peter Leithart and Ralph Smith as well.
BUT, inspired by that reading, I have been struck by some of the dynamics of unity and difference and the absolute necessity of both. It is the Spirit that unifies the Father and the Son. It is the Spirit that holds creation together, and brings together Jew and Gentile in the New Testament Church. But if the Spirit unifies there must be particulars to unify. Therefore, the Spirit must also be the Establisher of the particularity of each thing, each person. It is the action of unifying that establishes the Other. For in order for two things (or more) to come together, they must--in the first place--be two things. To bring this home: the unity that we share with other people MUST be with DIFFERENT people or it is no unity at all. It is not unity to have a lengthy discussion with the guy in the mirror.
Or a similar point could be made with the ideas of mystery and familiarity, akin to the concepts of unity and difference, particularly when grounded in the Trinity. Mystery is Other/Distance/Difference where familiarity is Unity/Harmony/Intimacy/Similarity. This being the case, both are absolutely necessary to preserve the other. Just as God's 'Oneness' IS the communion of the three persons and not some 'prior' substance 'behind' the threeness, so also our relation to others, our country, family, nation, land, whatever has to hold and glory in both the Other as Other/Difference/Mystery and then embracing it as such, we create Familiarity/Unity/Harmony.
Or something like that. It just seems like the continuum of mystery and familiarity is a similar continuum between unity and difference. And it is absolutely necessary to have both in order to preserve both. When one becomes dominant, they both careen into nothingness. Or to say it another way: no person/thing can be familiar without he/she/it first being mysterious/different (and continuing in some kind of mysteriousness/difference). Otherwise, you're just talking to the guy in the mirror again (all same). And someone/something cannot be mysterious/different without first having come in contact with it (having entered into some level of familiarity). Otherwise, how would you know it was mysterious, how could it be different?
Looking at it now, it seems all so plain and basic. But I guess I just got excited seeing the Life of the Trinity in the ordinary. I'm also intrigued by the idea that Gunton has that most of the last couple millenia are Western Civilization leaning towards 'oneness', boarderline unitarianism all along, and that the gospel to the world must be the good news of particularity, the essential goodness of difference in harmony, and full blown Trinitarianism for everyone to see.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Unity and Difference
Posted by Toby at 12:36 PM