FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – At the Land Center luncheon, Feb. 13, in the midst of a presentation about Trinitarian theology, professor Matt Sanders used Star Trek to illustrate a key point.
“Captain Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Lt. Uhura, Scotty, the red-shirted security guy who's going to get killed sometime during the episode—they all get paid the same: nothing,” Sanders explained. “There is no money in [Star Trek creator] Gene Roddenberry’s future. Sounds like a dream. Yet, Kirk has more authority, he has nicer living quarters, he has a nicer office than anybody, and he always seems to get more recognition.”
Sanders, assistant professor of Greek in the College at Southwestern, whose presentation addressed the question of how Trinitarian theology (that is, a belief in Father, Son and Holy Spirit) can inform a theology of work, answered how the Trinity might help address such disparity in Star Trek.
“Perhaps the fellowship of the Trinitarian persons in which each seeks the honor and glory of the others without denying the honor and glory due them has something to contribute to this topic,” Sanders said. “It would seem to me that Trinitarian theology can potentially inform us much more on the understanding of equality.”
Sanders’ presentation consisted of five points—what he called “preliminary thoughts”—on the subject of how a theology of work can become a Trinitarian theology of work.
For his first point, Sanders explained, “The Trinity is not just another position to be considered in the discussion or blended into one or more of the already-presented views. The Trinity is the discussion. If the discussion is theological in the Christian sense, it is a discussion about the God who is revealed in Scripture as Trinity.”
Next, Sanders stressed that the work of the Trinity is not a model for human work, adding that this is a common mistake.
“We cannot simply look at God and how the three persons work and try to duplicate that in humanity,” Sanders said. “Part of this is in the simple fact that we are not God. The other reason is that God is not us. He's incorporeal. He's not embodied. And because of that, there are ways that God can relate and work that we cannot.”
This led to Sanders’ third point, that a Trinitarian work in humanity can only be accomplished through the Trinity at work in humanity. This, in turn, ushered in the fourth point, that a Trinitarian theology of work will demonstrate how work reveals the nature of God. Sanders explained that, if the Trinity indwells Christians and works through them, then somehow their work will reveal something about the nature of God.
Examples of this concept at work include those of cooperation rather than competition and distinction alongside equality. To illustrate this latter point, Sanders used his Star Trek illustration, noting that, despite the utopic future depicted therein, with everyone being equal in terms of compensation, there still exists a definite hierarchy of worth among workers. Therefore, Sanders argued, Star Trek represents a non-Trinitarian theology of work because it fails to reveal the nature of God’s character.
Sanders’ final point was that a Trinitarian theology of work will promote the dignity of all workers, clarifying that the Trinity as three persons informs the importance of personhood in those created in His image.
Sanders concluded his presentation by acknowledging the need for further study in this area and his belief that any such study will be fruitful in advancing the understanding of work and, therefore, the understanding of one of the fundamental reasons that man was created.