On The Trinity, Foucault, and My Father the Arian: What I Am Researching and Why?

I have stated in a few Facebook post that I am doing an independent research project for my university, but I wanted to share on my blog more precisely what it is that I am doing. My independent research project is on the Trinity. The trinity (for those of you who don’t know) is the Christian doctrine of God which states in an extremely simplified format that: God the Father, Jesus Christ/Logos the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all co-equal parts of the Christian Godhead. There is no hierarchy in this Godhead. God the Father is just as God as God the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is no subordination of either of these entities and this does not make three Gods, but one God constituted by the making of the trinity. It is also important to note that God the Father, Christ/Logos the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equal in essence, and (although recent scholarly debates have made this notion more controversial, I will include) in function.

Christology was never a controversial discussion growing up in my Christian household. The fact that there was no controversy about this topic in my Christian household makes it all the more important personally that I do this research. Christology was easy and plainly put by my Father, and the scriptures he presented to support his notion (see. John 14:28; John 13:16; Mark 10:18; Matthew 27:46) made it seem all the more evident that the Trinity was false. I had grown to believe this was the undeniable truth for Christians. Christ was a man. God and Christ were two different entities. Christ served the Christian God, came into being because of the Christian God, and died because the Christian God sent him too. Christ was subordinate. This idea is called subordinationism, or Arianism, two terms that are used rather synonymously since Arian, an early Church “heretic” and presbyter, articulated the notion hundreds of years prior to my father had.

It wasn’t until I ran into conversations with Christians that I ran into the doctrine of God, and heard it considered to be “orthodox.” This term was not foreign for my father had always used a similar moniker, “Unorthodox,” in his Christian hip hop music which he always made sure we knew meant, “different from the norm.” The more Christians I ran into the more I learned that the trinity was the “norm,” and my father was indeed “unorthodox” in his subordinationism. But the notion of “norm” in and of itself has always been problematic for me. The “norm” has always been equated with truth which brought me to ask: How does something become the “norm”? How does the “norm” become the “truth”? How does the “truth” become orthodoxy?

INSERT: The potentially unlikely contributor to this Christian research, Foucault.

Foucault asks in Society Must Be Defended, “How does the discourse of truth, or simply, philosophy – in the sense that philosophy is the discourse of truth par excellence – establish the limits of power’s right?” This question restructured is my research question. If the doctrine of God is the norm, the truth, the Orthodoxy, contrary to my father’s and Arius’ thought which has now become more than unorthodox, but outright heretic, “How does the discourse of orthodoxy, or simply, theology – in the sense that theology is the discourse of truth par excellence (in the Christian faith) – establish the limits of power’s right?” There is little that has had more power historically than the Christian church whether it be Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or mainline Protestant. And if what Foucault says about the Middle Ages is correct when he says, “From the Middle Ages onward, the essential role of the theory of right has been to establish the legitimacy of power,” then, my project is to discover how and what kinds of mechanisms of power were used to forge the doctrine of God as the doctrine of truth and repress other doctrines, specifically Arianism far towards the periphery into heresy (well aware that the period I am researching is a bit sooner than the start of the Middle Ages). Whereas “orthodox” Christians see the doctrine of God, now, as the inevitable foundation of Christianity, the Trinity wasn’t always as dominant, and because of its current dominance I believe it is safe to say that something was dominated, or subjugated, in the case of the Trinitarian doctrine that is, and was, Arianism and subordinationism.

Looking to the archaeological method for inspiration, I hope to find out what mechanisms of power were used to subjugate my Father and Arius’ Christological thought beyond the “unorthodox” and into the heretical. It’s not to prove the Trinity true or false, or to prove my Father true or false, but to examine power and the way power has worked in forging the doctrine of God into Orthodoxy.

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