A Problematic Preposition





The names of those involved have been changed to protect the discerning.  The following is based on an actual case.


It was the Friday before St. Patrick's Day and the work day was about over.  I had been asking co-workers who were clearly not Irish what they're plans were for celebrating St. Patrick's Day.  I am a bit ornery.  A woman who works in the front office and dresses according to "The Standards" of the Apostolic Pentecostal church was passing by my fork truck, so I stopped and asked her what her plans were for the next day.

Joan:  "I've never celebrated St. Patricks's Day.  I'm Irish, though, so you would think that I would have."

Me:  "You're Irish?"

Joan:  "Yes, I am."

Me:  "Then you're going to be Catholic before you die."

J:  "No, I don't think so."  She chuckled.

M:  "Sure you will.  With all of those Irish ancestors praying for you, you certainly will be."

J:  "No.  You Catholics believe in three gods and reincarnation."

M:  "We do?  Who told you that?"

J:  "That's what you believe."

M:  "No, honestly, we don't believe either one.  Whoever told you that was very, very mistaken."

J:  "You don't believe in reincarnation?"

M:  "No.  Isn't that a Hindu belief?"

J:  "I don't know.  I thought Catholics did.  But you believe in three gods."

M:  "No, we believe in the Trinity, but that is not a belief in three gods."

J:  "Yes, it is.  Trinity means three gods."

M:  "No, it doesn't.  It means that there is only one God and that there are three Persons in that one God.  Like at the end of St. Matthew's Gospel, where Jesus tells them to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

J:  "Right.  And what is the name?"

M:  "The name is God."

J:  "No.  God is not a name.  The name is Jesus."

M:  "God is a name.  And Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the names of the three Persons."

J:  "Those are not names.  Those are titles.  Like I am a mother, a wife, and a sister.  There is only one God, His name is Jesus and Father, Son and Holy Spirit are roles."

M:  "No. I'm pretty sure those are names, too.  Don't your children call you, 'Mommy'?  That is their name for you.  It reflects the role you play in their lives, just as the names Father, Son and Holy Spirit reflect or point to their roles within the Godhead."

J:  "The only name is Jesus.  You are describing three gods.  There is only one God."

M:  "I agree.  There is only one God and within that one God are three Persons.  How many people are in your family?"

J:  "Five."

M:  "Do you say that there are five families or five people in one family."

J:  "It's not the same thing."

M:  "Yes, it is.  God is a family.  The love of the Father begets the Son and from the love of the Father for the Son and the love of the Son for the Father proceeds the Holy Spirit.  Just like in a family where the love of a man for a woman and her love of him make them husband and wife and from that love proceeds children, if you will."

J:  "What about in the first chapter of John, where he says, 'In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.'  He is saying that there is only one God."

M:  "Yes, John is attesting to only one God, but that verse is attesting to the existence of the Person of the Son within God."

J:  "He is not!"

M:  "If I say, 'Joan is with the pastor,' am I talking about the same person?"

Joan's jaw dropped slightly as a look of understanding and realization crossed her face.  She didn't say anything for about eleven seconds.

"Ah.  You Catholics make everything so hard," she said as she walked away never to talk with me again about the Trinity.

For whatever reason Joan (not her real name) somehow took a preposition to mean something different when it appeared in the Bible than it does in everyday use.  Many of us do that, but words mean what they mean whether they're in the Bible or in the National Catholic Register.

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