The doctrine of the Trinity is a vital part of the Christian faith. It is at the heart of our understanding of God and so of us, not least as we are “made in the image of God”. So, it has something important to say about how we relate to each other as well.
Rachel Held Evans is holding a ‘Week of Mutuality’, a week of posts on the subject of egalitarianism or mutuality, for which she has given the definition that “all believers—without regard to gender, ethnicity or class—must exercise their God-given gifts with equal authority and equal responsibility in church, home and world.”
One of the passages that gives us insights into both God’s nature and our nature is from the creation account in Genesis. Genesis 1:27 is a fascinating verse which I’ve discussed in more detail elsewhere. It says:
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
This is picked up in Galatians 3 by Paul, in his great statement of equality (worth another post in its own right), but for now I want to focus on what it also tells us about God’s nature. Our understanding of this is given in the doctrine of the Trinity.
The Trinity (a rather hard concept to grasp!) is at heart an understanding of the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; about how they can be Three and One. They are fully and equally God, who exist in an eternal relationship of love and mutual self-giving. So much so, that it is a perichoretic unity; a unity of interdependence and mutuality. This is a profound, deep, indivisible and equal relationship.
And, of course, we are created in the image of God! The passage from Genesis (and Galatians) strongly suggests that relationship is an essential part of what it is to be in the image of God (obviously including, but not limited, to marriage). As Robin Parry argues in his excellent book Worshipping Trinity:
It is in only in relationships that humans are able to work out the task of imaging God
I suppose that it is just about possible to argue that this sort of relationship is a form of complementarianism which (as Rachel notes) “affirms that men and women are equal in the image of God, but maintain complementary differences in role and function.” You could argue that within the Trinity the Son has a different role to the Father, who has a different role to the Spirit. So, you could argue that equality and complementary differences are both found within the Trinity. However, I rather think that this is stretching a point. Parry also writes:
Every action of God is an action of the whole Trinity. We should not suppose that creation is what the Father does, redemption is what the Son does, and giving life is what the Spirit does. Every member of the Godhead is involved in creation and in salvation. Whenever God acts, the Trinity acts.
The potential argument that there are different roles within the Trinity falls short of the biblical witness and of the theological reflection of the Church. So, if our relationships are defined by the relationship of God, then our understanding of what our relationships look like should be based of our understanding of God’s relationships. If we’re made in God’s image, if we’re to reflect his image in our lives and our relationships then what does this look like? It looks like all our relationships should be ones of equality and interdependence.