Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Trinity, a Hologram, and Christian Fiction

I know that one of the spiritual limps I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life is an aftereffect of believing in a god who didn’t exist. To this day I struggle with the concept of a triune God, and I know that many Christians without my cultic baggage do as well.

One graphic that has helped me is the time-honored ancient depiction of the Trinity, a simplified version of which appears below.

But while it might clarify some issues, it doesn’t come close to encompassing the incredible complexity of images that Ezekiel, for instance, experienced when he saw God: interdependent wheels and flashing lights and overlapping and multifaceted living beings no human could paint or even conceptualize simultaneously, but only in mental snapshots.

But recently a friend, Janis Hutchinson who like me is an ex-Mormon author, gave me another tool to understanding God, that of the concept of a hologram. As you might know, a hologram is a three-dimension image produced by a unique photographic process usually involving a laser.

But one extraordinary feature of a hologram is reminiscent of the Trinity. If you cut a holographic image into two, you don’t end up with two partial pieces. You end up with two complete images of the original. In this, a hologram is like the Trinity in that one of the Persons can be considered separately, so to speak, without diminishing the whole, as when Jesus left the Father and came to earth. The Godhead wasn’t reduced by this, even though Jesus brought with Him from eternity all the fullness of the Godhead.

What does this have to do with writing books from a Christian worldview? Some people criticize Christian fiction that only alludes to the gospel message without spelling out such elements as a complete conversion, for instance.

But if God is not diminished by considering or even imparting just one aspect of Himself – could it be that His message might have the same holographic capacity? If a book conveys eternal truth, with careful and responsible crafting by a writer who loves the word and The Word (and what a universe can reside in such Language!)—could not a book with just a masterful sliver of God in it carry the fullness of His message to the mind as well?


Katie Ganshert said...

Beautiful question - and I hope the answer is YES!

BTW, what is your nonfiction book called? My mom and stepdad are Mormon. I'm wondering if it will help me better understand their faith.

Latayne C Scott said...

Katie, I appreciate your interest in my nonfiction. It is The Mormon Mirage, published by Zondervan. It's available in print, audio, and e-book formats. Check out some of the reviews on Amazon and B&N.

Megan Sayer said...

This is truly profound. There is such a huge freedom for authors in this kind of thinking. It excited and validated me all at once, and then I got a bit sad. It seems like the purchasing (Christian) public isn't getting it.

So what does that mean? Logically then, if Christian authors are free to represent facets of God that aren't the "standard" maybe there's more of a place for those new works in secular bookstores rather than Christian ones. It seems to me (in my limited understanding) that Christian readers tend to have more expectations on what their books should be about than general readers...if the general public has less expectations then we can present more wider world views...

...and now we're back to the renaissance of Christian literature again...I love it! I love how your brain works Latayne!

So excited! Thanks !!!!

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Megan, I think you're right. Many Christian readers are interested in pure, happy, Gospel thumping fiction. That's unfortunate because the Christian life isn't so one dimensional. Our lives as believers are complex because we have a full and expansive God. And that's very exciting!

I think that there is a shift that has started in Christian fiction. One that is more true to life and less "Polly-Anna". Christian novelists are getting their hands "dirty", digging into the funk of this life and writing it.

Many (MANY) thanks to those who have begun this (as Megan said) renaissance!

Latayne C Scott said...

Great thinking from Megan and Susie. It's a mixed bag for me of hopefulness for the industry and persistent irritation that things got to the state they are in. (She says, being purposely vague.)

BTW, if any of you want a more complete explanation of the hologram/Trinity idea, Janis' very articulate article is here: http://www.janishutchinson.com/newsletters/the_trinity.pdf

Footprints From the Bible by Cynthia Davis said...

Latayne-love the hologram analogy for the Trinity. It's a new and wonderful way to explain the way we see different aspects of the same God, depending on where we are in relation to God.
As for writing-I agree that if we can impart even a smidgen of God in our work, we may be opening the door for someone who is searching.

Lynn Dean said...

Something to ponder! I believe you may be right. I'd never thought of the Christian fiction issue from quite this perspective, but now it occurs to me that the book of Esther in the Bible never directly mentions God, and yet that book is part of the fuller picture we have of His will and ways in His word.

Anonymous said...

Latayne, this is a timely post for me. I'm nearing The End of my WIP, and I've been concerned that I haven't conveyed more of my faith in this book. Yet it's the nature of the story -- it's the point of the story -- that my main character is far away from God, and for justifiable reasons. In staying true to the story, I hope a sliver is enough.

Kathleen Popa said...

Hey, Latayne is on the radio right now. You can listen here:

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I heard Latayne's voice! It is a deeply cultivated voice, wise and full of gentle humility. Just like what she posts here and writes in her books.
I realised not long ago that the 3 characters in my wip represent the three members of the trinity, in aspects of their roles and reactions. There is the authority, the worker/go between and the very human. I believe it wasn't easy for Jesus to be human, that He struggled like we do (as it says in Hebrews) so if my character struggles she can be said to bring a reader some insight into Him.

Ariel Allison Lawhon said...

Latayne, your post got me thinking about the book of Esther. God is not mentioned in that book and yet there is no question that it is His story. Surely, if such a book is good enough for the canon of scripture it is good enough for our local bookstores?

Marcia said...

Ahh, Latayne, you've hit on my favorite subject of struggle: the Trinity. I'm endlessly fascinated by it. Maybe because over the years I've sought to help those in a certain cult grasp this Great Truth.

Perhaps in my “help” they've only found a sliver of God, but being a finite human, it's all I could offer. I must leave the full load of the Godhead with the Godhead. And I have to keep reminding myself of that, especially in my writing, because (as a critic recently pointed out) I tend to write with a heavy hand.

Maybe what I could use more of in my writing is faith: faith that God can take my five loaves and two fishes and feed as many people as He wishes on limited resources. Faith to write exactly what He convicts me to write and not what I think will fit the market or my own preconceived ideas. He knows who will be reading what I write and what single little paragraph will turn on the light in their heart.

Besides, even if I gave “the whole gospel” a thorough venting in my novel, wouldn't it still be a mere sliver, since I'm a middle-aged American woman living in the heart of rural Texas? Isn't it enough if I barely manage to whet the reader's appetite for the Bible, where the whole mystery of the gospel can be searched out and discovered anew?

Back to the Trinity. One way I view God is as a circle who draws us into Himself. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to Jesus, and when we hold our arms out to Christ, He sweeps us up into the arms of the Father, who entrusts us to the Spirit, who enlarges upon Christ and makes Him dearer still, who opens the door to the Ancient of Days.... and on and on throughout eternity. This massive Being who fills the entire universe spirals upwards and inwards, drawing us with force and purpose into His great heart-- the heart of our Triune God. Blessed are those who wrestle with the Mystery of the Ages.

Anonymous said...

Marcia, what a beautiful picture of The Godhead. Beautiful.

Latayne C Scott said...

Cynthia and Lynn, I was as pleased as you both are to be given this helpful understanding of the Trinity. It gives me increased faith in God and appreciation for how we can receive "the gift of the Holy Spirit" and have Him dwell in each of us without any sense of division or lessing of Him in any way. It also lends new understanding to Paul's rhetorical question, "Is Christ divided?"

And the book of Esther! What a great example!

Latayne C Scott said...

Sharon and Katy, I am always honored by your attention and interest. I love you both dearly. And Sharon, your WIP is AMAZING and I pray the anointing of God upon its completion.

Henrietta -- how gracious of you to listen and to say such kind things. I felt so fervent about the subject and am glad that you listened in. And what a cool idea to have three novel characters exemplify the Trinity. Cool, cool, cool.

Latayne C Scott said...

Marcia, you blessed me today with your expanded understanding of the Trinity. Really good thinking!

Ariel, one of the things I love about God (and His Word) is how nonconformed they are to our norms. A sacred book that doesn't mention the name of God? A book of laments to build faith? Imprecatory psalms? An epistle written by a woman (maybe?)

Marian said...

I agree with you. God's Word is eternal truth. Every part of it conveys eternal truth, but most of it is not a conversion story.

I would like to see as much variety in Christian fiction as there is in the Bible.