Sunday, 26 January 2020

"Escalating Revelation": As a scholar, I am convicted.

"The case of Spinoza: One of the suggested reasons for his [Jewish] excommunication, in Amsterdam on 27 July 1656, was that he thought that 'the soul dies along with the body', a shocking opinion amounting to a form of sheer atheism…If this was a factor in the excommunication of the distinguished Spinoza, it is clear that immortality of the soul was a serious matter in Jewish life. 

"Well, the reader may say: this may be so, but of course it is only because these Jewish traditions had imported the concepts of Greek philosophy.  Yes, perhaps.  But this is just the point.  People have not only been using a crude and questionable opposition between Hebrew and Greek thought, but they have been implying that the Hebrew thought, thus identified, is perfect and complete. [emphasis his]  As it is depicted by many writers, it leaves no problems, no insoluble dilemmas; it contains no contradictions and it answers all the questions.  This being so, if anyone was attracted to elements of Greek thought, it is because they were fools or knaves.  Having a perfectly adequate mode of thought, they were willing to spoil it through the introduction of faulty and inadequate ideas from Plato or others, ideas which could only wreck the entirely satisfying totality that already existed. 

"All this has been an illusion."
James Barr, The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality, p. 46

I am guilty of this illusion.  I didn't realize just how guilty of it I am - or, rather, how hypocritical of me it was to hold this illusion - until it was put this way.  It is my primary frustration with the theology of the church as a whole that they adopt this same narrow-minded, prohibitive view of Christianity, "implying that the [early church fathers'] thought, thus identified, is perfect and complete."  Indeed, "as it is depicted by many writers, it leaves no problems, no insoluble dilemmas; it contains no contradictions and it answers all the questions", to the complete and utter exasperation of those of us not satisfied with the problems, dilemmas, contradictions, and unanswered questions of the Incarnation, Trinitarianism, the Doctrine of Original Sin, and countless other dogmas.  We scream, "Why is God not permitted to give new revelation?  Why is the understanding of men two thousand years ago so superior?"  And all of our frustration falls on the deaf ears of our fellow conservative Christians because "if anyone is attracted to elements of [new revelation], it is because they are fools [and heretics]." 

Conservative Christians face a dilemma.  If we cannot simply be content with re-explaining the "perfectly adequate mode of thought" presented by the Early Church, over and over again ad nauseum, in the hopes that one of these days, we can make these inexplicable doctrines more palatable, we must abandon our conservative values altogether and join the far left, where words like "heresy" hold no significance.  If we are "willing to spoil it through the introduction of faulty and inadequate ideas from [modern revelation, in all its forms], ideas which could only wreck the entirely satisfying totality that already exists," then we must do it without recognition of our personal and intimate relationship with God, a high Christology or, me genoito,* a high view of scripture!  Joining the world of "Progressive Christianity"** means we gag on at least as much there as we do in our conservative circles, AND we're branded as "fallen away ones".  But at least we'll be free to seek God.  Is it worth it?  Or is it better to just plunge our heads back into the sand?

The fact of the matter is, NO perfect theology exists - not then, not now.  God is infinite and he has given us an eternity to spend learning about him.  We will never - in all of that experience in all of that eternity - know him completely.  That should tell us something about our few thousand years on earth, let alone the experience we as individuals have in developing our PERSONAL theology.  Instead, God utilizes what I will henceforth term "escalating revelation", building line upon line and precept upon precept just the way he always said he would.  And it looks a bit like this:

  1. He revealed himself in the Torah.  
  2. Then he revealed himself through the prophets in a way which (to the anxiety and egregious discomfort of those Jewish scribes trying to determine whether or not to throw out the book of Ezekiel) developed, influenced, and, yes, CHANGED Torah and our perception of it. 
  3. Then he revealed himself through Hellenism (I choke… but I'm becoming convinced of this) and changed the way the Jews read the Torah AND the Prophets.  This was the environment that Paul was born into, seeing the Jewish scriptures NOT from a "Hebrew-not-Greek" perspective, but from the perspective of a Hellenized Jew.  Accepting this will help us to understand why Paul seemed to hold ideas about the guilt of women, the inherent danger of sex, the nature of original sin, and many other ideas not easily verified by direct comparison with the scriptures about which he is offering commentary and interpretation.
  4. Then he revealed himself through Jesus and the New Testament and now the Christians have a new way of looking at Torah, the Prophets, and Hellenistic Judaism.  (ie, it's canon) 
  5. Then he continued to reveal himself, but we already had a canon!  Unable to add to it (thank God!) with the searching by the early church fathers, as God continued to reveal himself in ways that REINTERPRETED PAST REVELATIONS, we venerated the searching of the early church fathers to a new category known as "dogma" - not quite scripture, but equally authoritative.
  6. Then came the so called "Dark Ages" and God never spoke again.


Because we needed order to early Christianity, we formalized our acceptance of all four revelations up to that point (Torah, Tanakh, Hellenism, New Testament) and forced them (sometimes with great difficulty!) to be seen as one perfectly congruent mass.***  Note that Jews did no such thing.  Torah is Torah - primary and unchanging (and no, I'm not willing to enter into the Moses/JEDP tangent here).  Later books (Tanakh) offer further revelation and explanation, but there is a distinct difference between "the law" and "the prophets".  In fact, the idea of escalating revelation is fundamentally built on Judaism's treatment of Torah, Tanak, and Midrash.  The Torah - indeed, the entire Bible - subject to reinterpretation three, four, five times over, was not suddenly fixed in an unchangeable stasis field because we called a council and defined canon.  God did not die, or suddenly lose his ability to speak, after the Early Church Fathers were done with their contribution to revelation.  It has continued.  How arrogant are we to think otherwise?  If God is done revealing himself, let's just end the world and be done with it! Incidentally, this is precisely what they expected to happen.  But it didn't.  So let's accept that our perspective and capacity for understanding God's plan for humanity is MORE ADVANCED (in years) than theirs and come up with a more viable solution to how we should have been viewing God's revelation of himself ever since Jesus didn't return when he "should have."

On a more personal note, and coming back to what struck me about this topic in the first place, is my own arrogance in failing to recognize God's hand in developing the understanding of himself through Hellenism and, indeed, Greek philosophy.  They did NOT get it completely right and, in fact, may have royally screwed up some theologies in the process of coming to the deeper truth on others.  But focusing ONLY on what they screwed up has prevented me from recognizing any value to the contributions they did make.  I am willing to say that God talked to them as he indeed talks to us, and their revelations should be evaluated with respect in the pursuit of our deeper understanding today.  But the danger in saying this is that I fear my "giving ground" will be taken as a recantation of all (or any) previous or future statements about what they got wrong.  They got things right AND they got things wrong.  And the things that don't seem to match what comes before OR what necessarily comes after cannot be accepted as absolute truth simply because we have spent 2000 years believing them without question. 

We need a new way of evaluating God's escalating revelation, and I ask other Christians and scholars to join me in the efforts to further an understanding that neither discards scripture nor venerates the mistakes and misunderstandings of past theologians.

*me genoito, usually translated as something like "God forbid" or "certainly not" is an emotion-filled expression repeatedly used by Paul, most accurately (if socially inappropriate to our modern church) translated, "hell no!"

** This term has been claimed by a movement which dispenses with scripture and/or the centrality of Christ and simply becomes a "feel good" sort of Unitarian universalism, as seen here.  For a view closer to my own, see instead, for example, this concerned blogger. Note the problem of how all of these things are lumped together as part of the same movement; if you ascribe to one (specifically, #3 and #4), you must claim them all.  A high view of scripture and a high Christology/soteriology has no place in a classification such as this.  See also here for another theologian's experience and wrestling with this same issue.

*** Because of my personal view of scripture, based primarily upon the fact that I don't believe God would have allowed a faulty representation of him to be provided for future generations, I believe that is it safe to accept what is found in Scripture as truth.  The Bible is uniquely a living word, and God can reveal new things - progressively - over and over again through it.  And this is precisely the point: When the canon was closed, it was closed, and it - not any later interpretation - MUST be the composite sketch we reckon with in evaluating new escalating revelation.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Christianity's covenant renewal: Worthiness and communion

Christianity's covenant renewal: Worthiness and communion

Church views on communion - what it is and what it means - vary widely.  Traditionally, we acknowledge three views.  Two are sacramental (meaning they are a means of dispensing grace to humans from God) and one is symbolic (meaning it merely reminds us of what Christ did on the cross).  The first two are far more concerned about I Cor 11:29: For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.  After all, if you are flippantly consuming what is ACTUALLY, in substance and meaning, the flesh of the crucified messiah, could there be a greater insult?  The third view seeks a variety of ways to interpret that verse.  Most that I have heard focus on defining one of three words: worthy, judgment, and body.  What does it mean to be worthy, what kind of judgment are we talking about, and what is this cracker and grape juice about anyway?  In asking these two question, the meaning of the verse is often summarily dismissed.  You're worthy by virtue of belief in Christ (what that actually MEANS is another discussion altogether), the judgment ranges from "your prayers won't be heard" to "you look like a fool" but is usually not really substantial, and I cannot tell you how many times I've heard a pastor include in a communion sermonette the disclaimer, "This is just a cracker and some juice."  Now that all of my Zwinglian communion-partaking friends are up in arms at the suggestion that they disregard scripture, I will politely ask that you offer a more accurate representation of your definition in the comments if you have one.  It's not my view, and it's been crammed down my throat in the Pentecostal/Non-Denominational Church for the past thirty years, so I freely admit, I am biased.

With that said, I'm not sure I entirely agree with my Catholic or Lutheran friends either.  At least, not on the sacramental bit.  I'm more inclined to trans/con-substantiation (it's a technicality to me, really) than symbolism not on the basis of church tradition or anything to do with sacraments, but because of John 6:51-58:

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven–not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

And, most importantly, verse 66:

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

Jesus used some very crude, offensive language in this passage.  Eat his flesh?  Drink his blood?  How revolting to a Jew with strict dietary laws!  This wasn't a surprise to him; he knew how difficult these words would be to accept.  He could have used a metaphor less offensive to his Jewish brothers if he meant for it to be metaphorical.  He could've easily said, "My blood is LIKE drink" or corrected their misunderstanding by saying, "This is a parable."  Or started out by saying, "Here's a parable"!  Instead, he turns to his disciples and says, "Do you want to leave me, too?"  You can't say he didn't KNOW they would be offended, or that there was no other metaphor he could have used.  Therefore, if you say that Jesus didn't mean his words quite literally, you're saying that he deliberately led all of these people astray.

A necessary disclaimer: Yes, this is the book of John and the words of Christ are viewed through the lens of later reflection.  But let's be clear, this was NOT something added in by a Catholic church trying to substantiate its view of communion.  No matter how much we may want to throw this away on the basis of "later church addition", it's in the earliest manuscripts.  The Fourth Gospel writer(s) wrote it and it survives as scripture. 

Back to the topic at hand: a proper interpretation of communion worthiness.
I am a strong advocate of interpreting our Christian traditions on the basis of their Jewish origins.  The corresponding Jewish tradition in this case is quite obvious: Passover.  Passover is a renewal of the covenant between God and Israel.  I see communion as a renewal of the covenant between God and me (or us, rather, since Passover is definitively about community identification).  So if this is the case, what about that pesky verse in Corinthians?

"For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." I Cor 11:29

It wasn't really an option for the children of Israel to partake in Passover unworthily.  The unworthy person (who would "eat and drink judgment" because they didn't discern the significance) was strictly prohibited from participation.  There wasn't even a penalty stipulated ("If he eats it, you shall do this.")  It was just NOT going to happen.  No foreigners were to partake of the Passover.  PERIOD.  A foreigner is identified, very explicitly, as someone not in covenant with Yahweh (ie uncircumcised).  If a foreigner wishes to become an Israelite, let him be circumcised into covenant, then he can participate in Passover.  (Exodus 12:43-50)

This doesn't feel good to our modern sensibilities.  Everyone should be allowed to participate in communion, right off the street!  This isn't some cult ritual only for the special elect ones!  Well… no.  True, it's not our job to regulate a man's relationship with God.  If he says he's in covenant relationship - his heart has been circumcised - we really have to take him at his word.  Whether or not someone is "saved" is the one thing we can't judge.  But God can.  People need to be aware that by participating in communion, they are proclaiming, "I am in a lifelong covenant with God."  Lying about that in order to have some crackers and juice is something no sensible person would do unless they didn't realize what they were saying.  Our job is not to regulate who can and cannot receive communion, it is to make certain all participants understand the significance of what they're doing.  At that point, it's between them and God.

One final note: what about children?
Some children are born into covenant.  Their parent(s) have a covenant with God that extends to them until they reach an age (different for each child) where they have the maturity and understanding to make their own covenant with God and become directly accountable to him.  Personally, I see no problem with these children partaking in communion that is MEDIATED by their parents.  The children in the household were permitted to participate in Passover and, in fact, their questions about "Why do we do this?" form the basis of the tradition being passed down from one generation to the next. 
Some children are not born into covenant.  These children come to the church "off the street", either out of a well-meaning parent's efforts to instill morality through Sunday School or they are friends of covenant children who tag along.  I am NOT proposing that these children are not important to God; they are VITAL to expansion of the kingdom.  But they have no context for understanding communion/Passover, and are the very definition of foreigners.  When they become old enough to initiate their own covenant with God (again, a different age for each child) then the significance of communion/Passover should be explained to them.
Because any Sunday School has a mix of these two groups of children, it is best if communion isn't offered as part of Sunday School worship.  But it need not be denied to children in "grown up" service whose parents accept the responsibility for their education and understanding of what they're doing.

Friday, 17 January 2020

A Lifestyle of Fasting

About a year ago, my mother became vegetarian.  She had a number of reasons for doing this, but perhaps the most important was scriptural: She was entering into a lifestyle of fasting.  Recently, God has put it within me to live a fasting lifestyle as well.  My mother is a person who does not eat meat.  There are many people who do not eat gluten, or seafood, or sugar (at least not without insulin).  I am a person who does not eat carbs.  While on the surface, this may look like a diet, make no mistake that I intend to live the rest of my life not eating carbs until and unless God should tell me, "I want you to fast something else now."  It's not JUST a diet.  It's a lifestyle of fasting that I will continue until the day I die. The next thing he tells me to fast may be easier or harder, but I will be fasting the rest of my life.

In this process, I have become acutely aware of instances of fasting in the Bible and what we learn about them.  If this is my lifestyle, I need to know how to live it!  The first and most obvious is the passage that defines a need for a lifestyle of fasting.  In Mark 9:14-29, Jesus casts out a demon after the disciples tried and failed to do so.  They ask him why they couldn't do it and he responds, "This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting."  In the context, both here and the corresponding pericope in Matthew 17:14-21, the statement is prefaced by a much more lengthy chastisement about unbelief. (Luke also records an abbreviated version of this tradition in 9:37-42, but Jesus isn't asked why the disciples failed.)  Reading through the story, you're left with the question: Which is it - unbelief or lack of fasting?  How are these two concepts related? 

In this scripture and through my experience of fasting thus far, I find that they are quite directly related or, at least, the opposite is true.  Belief produces fasting (I know God told me to do this, therefore I do it) but more importantly, fasting produces belief.  There is a shift in your relationship with the person whom you allow to change your everyday life forever.  When I got married, I knew the lifelong commitment I made because my then-boyfriend asked me to would affect me every day.  Likewise, when I began this fast, the lifelong commitment I made at God's request is going to affect me every day, constantly reminding me of his presence in my life.  Being constantly aware of God helps me to hear him better, know him better, and incidentally also increases my faith because he's always THERE and present in my life so it's easy to believe my close life-partner when he says something.  It's easy to have faith.  Fasting is an important part of our walk with God.

The other passage I came across just this morning was the Passover story of Exodus.  When God tells them to eat only unleavened bread for seven days leading up to the Passover, he is essentially calling them to a fast.  It's not that they didn't have time, in seven days, to leaven their bread (as is often taught - it had to be unleavened because they had to prepare it quickly).  True, the tone of the entire instruction for the Passover has an air of urgency about it, but they were doing this for seven days.  Seven days was long enough to leaven bread.  It was so long, in fact, that God prefaced the command to fast with the command, "Get all the leaven out of your houses."  (Exodus 12:15)  In other words, "Keep that stuff you're fasting from out of your sight." 

What I have read and understood about fasting highlights three things for me. 
#1 - Fasting is not a hunger strike.  I've known this for a long time, and it's still true.  Thankfully, the church doesn't routinely teach this to young Christians anymore, the way they have in times past.  As an overview, you aren't going to force God to do something (or to answer you) by fasting - not even if you prove to him you REALLY want it and how good you are at self-control.  It is true that when you're focused on him, you hear better.  So if not eating helps you to focus on him, go for it.  If that thing you're fasting (social media, for instance) is taking your attention off of him, that's a good place to start with what and how to fast. But it's not going to FORCE him to do what you want because you're suffering.
#2 - Fasting may produce self-control, but it's not quite right to say that the POINT of fasting is to build up your self-control.  The Israelites threw out their leaven so they didn't have to self-control their urge to use it.  Jesus went out into the wilderness to fast, where he would've had to turn stones into bread to eat!  Staring at something you're fasting in order to prove your self-control is unnecessarily masochistic and God doesn't encourage us to do this.  Frankly, he's not impressed by your self-control.  Now, exposure to what you're fasting may be required if, for instance, you have to cook dinner for your family and you're fasting food.  But it's not earning you brownie points to be able to resist the temptation.  If you can get the object of your fasting out of your sight, DO it.
#3 - Even at seven days, the fast was long enough to require a lifestyle change, which would have to be reversed when the Israelites went back to their normal way of doing things.  They would have to go out and get (or create) new leaven for their bread.  Fasting is, by definition, a lifestyle change.  It may be short term - you can only go so long without water (*cough* coffee! *cough*).  It may be long term - you can live your whole life without ever eating another bowl of ice cream.

Also, I see from Exodus that fasting can be used (biblically) to build community and unity.  The WHOLE population of Israel fasted for the Passover, corporately obedient to the word of God.  But with that said, the principles of what fasting is and is not are still in place.  It's not a hunger strike, it's not all about your self-control, and it's participation in a lifestyle - whether long or short term.  The early church ascetics understood points 1 and 3, but not 2.  Modern Christians have all sorts of combinations of the above three points, but it's important to recognize ALL of them as forming a basic principle of fasting.

Lastly, God can (and does) at any time reserve the right to override any basic principles he establishes.  If God tells you to fast all food for 6 hours while baking cakes for your neighbors, DO it.  Obedience is more important than understanding why.  But in general principle, we need to rethink how we view fasting, its significance, methods, and application.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Why I Am Not Trinitarian

Let's address the elephant in the room: If you've been in the church (or in Christian scholarship) for more than a year, you already have a preconceived notion of me as a Christian and a theologian.  You got that preconception the moment you read "I am not Trinitarian".  Even if you are not inclined to join the voices of the historical Trinity-defenders crying, "Burn her at the stake!", you suppose that I cannot possibly be a conservative Christian, with a high view of scripture and a high Christology.  In fact, my view of scripture is remarkably high for a scholar - a point that's gotten me into more than one heated debate - and my Christology is as high as it comes.  As a Christian, I'm fully engrossed in my walk with God and as a scholar, I'm dead set on finding the truth of Scripture (not, for the record, the "kernel of truth").  What you're seeing in me, and what causes your immediate feelings of disgust (or simply disregard) is nothing more or less than a low ecclesiology, particularly when it comes to the first 500 years of Christianity.  Simply put, I think the Early Church Fathers had a right to be wrong.

Debating (or even discussing) Trinitarianism is horribly frustrating for me.  Let's be honest: How many people got their best example of "How to Explain the Trinity" ready when you saw my title?  Maybe you've got a great example, or maybe I could pick your example apart.  It doesn't really matter, because any time someone says, "I am not Trinitarian," the first thought is, "They must not understand the Trinity."  I saw this never more obviously than when I invited my Trinitarian professor to a debate during my Master's degree at Oral Roberts University, and he answered that I must first take his Doctrine of God class because I would surely embrace Trinitarianism once it was adequately explained.  (He did fully explain it, by the way, but I could not embrace it even when I tried.  We went on to have exceptionally good debate and discussion that served to further convince me that I'm not now, nor will I ever be, Trinitarian.)

It seems any example I give a well-schooled Trinitarian of my own position is usually met with the response, “Well, no, it’s not like that because the three are ONE and the one is THREE persons… but really just one.”  This is followed by a lengthy repeat of theology with lots of meaningless and nonsensical mumbo jumbo from the first few centuries of Christianity.  The recitation of dogma will be sealed with a wistful, “God’s ways are so much higher than ours! He understands all this perfectly even though it makes no sense to us…”  Twenty minutes later, when I can finally get a word in edgewise, I may or may not be permitted to speak because the stage has already been set: Which heresy am I going to propose today?  Is it Arianism?  Is it Modalism?  One of those labels MUST fit, because the Early Church has already refuted them all.  There cannot possibly be any interpretation they overlooked.  HOW they refuted them is another argument altogether: Is it okay to refute sense with nonsense?  

My answer to that question should seem obvious.  Sense cannot be refuted with nonsense, even that which we believe "by faith."  I have to state that not as a derogatory comment, that faith is somehow foolishness in Christian disguise, but because there are Trinitarians who really do KNOW their stuff and aren't just reciting it without any understanding of what they're saying.  My Trinitarian professor was one of those people: he fully understood the arguments of Trinitarianism and was fully convinced of their validity.  My position is patently NOT that Trinitarians are stupid.  But it's also pretty clear that they do not think their theology makes sense.  It is only those who have never thought too hard about it that have no trouble with the "always safe" answer to give in Sunday school: "Jesus and God".  The more you study Trinitarianism, the more you are forced to admit it makes no sense, and you choose to accept it because it is well-substantiated (even if on nonsense), intelligently argued by men who used really big Greek words, and well-established as "truth" through the process of Church Councils.  Every question has been asked and answered and considered, and Trinitarianism is still the predominant view.  There must be a reason for that; it must be God-given and endorsed.  After all, isn't the core of our belief as Christians based on nonsense?  Jesus was crucified and then he got up and walked out of his tomb!  What kind of nonsense is that? 

I do not believe sense can be refuted with nonsense, but it can be refuted with truth.  And in fact, that Jesus didn't stay dead may be contrary to scientific understanding but it's not contrary to sense.  In fact, it follows a well-established pattern of reason - If Jesus remained dead, what happened to his body and why were the earliest Christians so convinced of his resurrection that they were willing to be horrifically martyred for proclaiming it?  Now THAT would be nonsense. The Bible gives us the alternative to this nonsense: the truth of his resurrection.

Who, then, (or what) establishes truth?  The answer to that question should (naturally) be the object of our faith.  For the Christian, God establishes truth, obviously, but how?  Does he use scripture to establish truth?  Most Christians would say yes.  But how do you interpret it when it is difficult and seems contradictory?  What about later additions - the things we can prove Paul (or John…) didn't write?  Was there someone standing there with an audio recorder every time Jesus spoke?  Because if not, how can we know for sure what he said even if we DO believe he was actually God and the ultimate bearer of truth?  Who decided what scripture actually WAS anyway, and which books would get put in?  Ultimately, it is very difficult to have faith in scripture (or, indeed, in Christ) without having faith in the early church.  We see scripture through the lens of the Early Church - a closed canon, clearly defined, and prescribed interpretations to tint our glasses.  But this is not the only set of "glasses" with which to read the Bible.

I see scripture through the complex lens of my personal relationship with God (pneumatology), the wealth of information available about how that scripture was written and interpreted (reason), and the MODERN church (where my ecclesiology fits in).  With few exceptions, I interpret in that order.  The early church thus informs my reason, but it does not actually inform my ecclesiology.  It certainly doesn't singlehandedly establish what is truth for me, even if there exists dogma on the subject at hand.  Does this make my interpretations subjective because they're based first and foremost on what God reveals to me in scripture?  Perhaps.  But better to put my faith in my own subjectivity (well-informed by the Holy Spirit, history, reason, and the relevance of God to modern man) than in the subjectivity of men who lived two thousand years ago with either the exact same resources or outdated versions of them.

So let us be clear on what I see as my diversion from Trinitarianism: The Father is God BECAUSE of his one-not-one relationship with the Son, who is God BECAUSE of his one-not-one relationship with the Father and then there’s a Holy Spirit.  We really don't know what to do with him (not "it") when you get right down to the core of the discussion - so much so that the Eastern Church SPLIT over creedal wording that suggested the Holy Spirit had some form of independent personal existence.  But in the end, orthodoxy determined He is one-not-one with the other two-not-two God(s), too.  It doesn't make any sense, it's self-contradictory, and it's SUPPOSED to be, because God's ways are higher than our ways and we have faith.  But I have no such faith (in the early church).  My faith is in scripture, just as theirs was - but my interpretation not subject to theirs and I see no Trinitarianism. 

Don't get me wrong, I see a lot of things that are as confusing to me as they are to all the other non-Trinitarians throughout history.  And yes, I see plenty of "Father-Son" language.  I do know my Scripture and I'm not a complete idiot.  I also know quite a bit about heresies and the scriptures used to refute them.  So please allow me to further define what I am not:

I am not Trinitarian: I do not believe the three-not-three are one-not-one.
I am not adoptionist: I do not believe that Jesus was a human son adopted by God who then became a G/god, regardless of whether that means he became one-of-two or two-not-two who are one-not-one.
I am not modalist: I do not believe God used masks, switching them back and forth in a way that leaves heaven "empty" while Jesus is on earth and makes him look like a complete fool every time he talks to his "Father".

I could tell you what I believe, but to put it in the context of historical development, you have to go back to a theology (monarchianism) BEFORE it split into two other theologies (adoptionism and modalism) which were then refuted by the church.  We cannot fully know what the earliest Monarchians believed because these men (and their ideas) did not survive the conquest of orthodoxy.  Furthermore, what we do know of what they believed is only preserved in the writings of their opponents.  (My assessment of monarchianism, by the way, can be found here: What Happened to Monarchianism?)  And even if we could see all the details of what they believed and why, I don't think the Monarchians had it all figured out.  How could they? Trinitarians certainly didn't have their theology figured out in the first hundred years!  I do, however, think we could've figured out a great deal more about who God is by now if we hadn't been tumbling down the rabbit hole of Trinitarianism for the past two thousand years, making the same arguments over and over while crying out to God for new revelation.  God is forever revealing new truths about himself that challenge our old perceptions.  And isn't that the point?  Why is God not allowed to reveal truths now - IN scripture and validated by reason, experience, AND community within a modern church that has progressively complex needs - if new revelation challenges the perceptions of the early church?  I have yet to receive a convincing answer to this question.

This is why I remain firmly non-Trinitarian.