One of the basic insights which students of Scripture quickly receive is that our concept of God and God's relationship with us continually evolves. Biblical theology isn't static; it constantly flows, changes and adapts.

Those who attempt to solve theological questions by naively asking, "What does the Bible say?" are exposing their lack of familiarity with the Bible. Anyone who studies the Bible knows "the Bible" technically says very little; yet it contains very much.

Unlike the Muslim Koran which, according to tradition, was written by one inspired individual in one place during one lifetime, our sacred book is a collection of writings which span almost 1,200 years, composed by people who experienced God working in their lives in such diverse places as Israel, Babylon, Corinth, and Rome.

Through time

These authors originally began their faith journey by reflecting on a crossing of the Red Sea and ended by speculating on an empty tomb. In between, they developed some rather unique theologies. Though later people of faith eventually collected their diverse reflections and speculations into a single book, the trail of their theological itinerary is evident to any who take the time to look for it.

Would modern Christians, for instance, be comfortable living their faith within the earthly limits of Yahweh's promised rewards to the Chosen People in the first reading (Dt 4: 32-34, 39-40)? The theologian who composed this work six centuries before Christ believed that keeping Yahweh's statutes and commandments guarantees only that "you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which Yahweh, your God, is giving you forever."

It says nothing about the glorious afterlife which many Jews and all Christians started to believe in centuries after the book of Deuteronomy was completed.

Knowing that theology evolves within the Bible should help us accept its evolution outside and beyond the Bible. Though Scripture scholars always point out that the dogma of the Trinity, which we commemorate on Sunday, isn't found as such in Scripture, they quickly assure us that the council of Nicea's statement in 325, which is the basis for this celebration, is a logical evolution of the faith we do find there.

Unity of theme

Thankfully, though Biblical theologies come in different packages and sizes, there are certain concepts which hold the diverse concepts together.

None is clear and more forceful than the motif which runs through Sunday's three readings. The authors of Deuteronomy, Romans and Matthew's Gospel all agree that God is present and working within their communities.

Moses sets the theme by proclaiming, "Yahweh is God in the heavens above and on earth below....There is no other." There's no way to escape God, so we might as well obey God's commands.

Paul reminds the Christian community in Rome (Rom 8: 14-17) that all Jesus' followers have "received a Spirit of adoption." Through their oneness with Jesus in His dying and rising, they've actually become "children of God." They're now as close to God as God's child, Jesus, is close to God.

But the classic place to see God's presence in our lives through Jesus' presence is in the Gospel (Mt 28: 16-20). It's a presence which springs from Jesus' disciples carrying on His ministry. Though Scripture scholars assure us that the Trinitarian form of Baptism used in this passage is relatively late -- Paul simply baptized "in the name of Jesus" -- the last statement goes back as far as we can trace early Christianity: "Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

God's people have discovered that presence in different ways through different periods of their history. The feast of the Trinity tells us that there's always more to discover.

(06-15-00)