Jon Explains the Trinity
The Trinity is Christianity’s most difficult doctrine. It is also Christianity’s most defining doctrine, clearly setting apart orthodoxy from heresy (see part B). Herein is still another attempt to make plain what was meant to be a wonderful new way of understanding and relating to God and yet has become a stumbling-block for the ages. Note: The style below is conversational, not third person. My apologies to the academics.
Question: Can God talk to you? Do you believe that God is able to speak to you in a audible voice from Heaven? No, I am not asking
does He talk to you. I am asking can He talk to you? Well, yes, of course He can. He talked to the prophets of old, and He can talk to anyone today, if He so chooses. It is a foolish question.
Question: Can God talk to me? Now I can read some of your minds… “No, God doesn’t talk to sinners.” Sure He does. He talked to Cain who was about to kill his brother. To Balaam who was about to curse Israel. God talks to sinners today through Scripture, through the created order, through a smitten conscience… in many ways and at many times. But the question, again, is not does He, but can He? Of course He can. If He wants to.
Now for the really hard question: Can God talk to you and me at the same time?? Hmm? Well, duh, of course He can. He can talk to everyone on the planet at the same time, if He wants to. He can talk to everyone in the Universe at the same time, if He wants to. He can hear the prayers of a hundred million saints, all at the same time… if He wants to (and He wants to). That’s why He is God, and we are not. That’s why Job had to confess to his inadequacy and creatureliness (and shame and repentance for reproaching the Almighty) when God plied him with questions too wonderful for him to understand, let alone answer.
Now for the trick question: Can God be in heaven, ruling the Universe, knowing what is in every heart, AND, be incarnate in a Galilean carpenter 2000 years ago? No, I am not asking you did He, but can He. If you answered to preceding question, ‘yes’, then this question must also receive a, ‘yes’. That’s why this is a trick question.
Who is like God? Who can even begin to compare themselves to the Almighty, the Creator, the Infinite, the All-Powerful? Is anything too hard for God? Now you may answer that God never did ‘that’; that Jesus is not the only begotten (= “one of a kind”, “there-won’t-be-another-one”, “unique”) Son of God. You can reject His divinity, or His humanity, or His Messiahship, or even that He ever existed. This is your present permission to do so. But can God do this? Yes, of course He can. If He wants to. He can even indwell prophets of old (and believers today) with His Holy Spirit. If He wants to.
The concept of the Trinity is not so much how God can be three and one at the same time, but how God wants to relate to His creation (us) if we will let Him. As Almighty God, He deserves our worship, to be high above us, worthy of awe and fear, immortal, invisible, inconceivable. The True and Living God is just as everyone is afraid He will be: Righteous, Just, unstoppable in power, knowing every thought and motive... Holy. But, if we will accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, then God, in the Person of His Son, also can be our friend as well. Someone whom we can relate to: a human, with a face and a voice and a smile. Blasphemy? Could be. We’ll all find out in eternity, won’t we? And woe is us if we got it wrong, agreed?
But what about the third Person of the Trinity? Truly, God also wants to live IN us as well. He wants to change our lives, to help us overcome sin, to show Himself strong when we are weak, to get praise for His Namesake when we live for Him and love for Him and forgive for Him and die for Him.
And that’s just some of the things the God’s Holy Spirit will do to us when we have Him living in us for having believed in God’s Son unto salvation. It is the definition of being ‘born again’ (= regeneration, becoming a new creature). And be mindful, the Holy Spirit also convicts sinners of sin, produces “fruits” in response to obedient living, equips the church by giving “gifts” to her members, and, preeminently, glorifies the Son.
This is the Trinity. It is orthodox Christianity. And, it is much more than all other religions have ever conceived. You can reject it. You can kill us, if you want to. (Though one wonders why, if we are going to get in so much trouble with God for promoting a lie, death in this life is supposed to be so fearful? Eternal Death is a lot more scary!) But this is what the implications of being a Christian are, whether we understand it or not.
The Trinity is not a theological construct for portraying God in an obscure manner. It is God relating to His creation (us). God above us. God beside us. God within us. Interestingly, this exhausts the ways we can be related to as creatures. As creatures (conscious beings), we have only 3 ways that we can relate and respond and interact with other “beings” or things: 1) As concepts or ideals [= above us], 2) Experientially, as being part of our interaction with things external to us [= beside us], and 3) Internally, as being within our psyche and sense of self [= within us]. A tract will follow to illustrate this.
How does God do this? We don’t know. How can He be three and one at the same time? Can’t even begin to guess. But we do have an everyday example that most everyone can understand: When we are a spouse, a parent, and a child (tho I prefer using ‘employee’ instead of child) all at the same time. We don’t talk (or relate) to our children in the same way we talk to our spouses or parents (or employers). We are, as it were, “different” people in such relationships. Nevertheless, we are still just one person. And here’s where the analogy breaks down. We can’t be a spouse and a child and a parent all to the same person. But God is so with us. That’s the Trinity.
One spring day Christian was sitting on a bench meditating. He looked out at the green grass and tall, full trees and thought, “How
beautiful. How peaceful.” He looked up at the blue skies with its mighty clouds sailing by and thought, “How majestic. How grand.” The sun shown down and warmed his face and his body, while the cool
breeze skipped over his legs and arms.
And God spoke to him and said, “Good morning, Christian! Admiring my handiwork?” “Oh, yes, God! How wonderfully You do all things! My heart is full to overflowing with songs of praise, tho these are but just echoes of the praises that Thy creation sings for having been robed so splendidly.”
And Christian worshipped God.
And as Christian sat there worshipping, he felt a nudge at his side. He turned and looked, and to his surprise, it was God! “God, where did You come from? I was worshipping You just now, even as You had just spoken to me from above.” “I’ve been here all the time, Christian. You just didn’t notice me.” “But aren’t You in heaven, from whence having just spoken to Thy servant to delight his heart?” “ I am still in heaven, Christian, and your worship is appropriate, for I am God. But I am also your companion, indeed, your true friend. A friend so true that I laid down my life for you. I am with you always, and there is no power in heaven or on earth that can separate you from my love.”
And Christian talked with his friend.
And as Christian was talking to God, he felt a warm glow in his heart. And he felt a tingling in his hands and limbs. And his mind became full and his eyes saw clearly. And he said, “God, You are within me! But I was just talking with You as You sat next to me.” “I am still beside you, Christian, just as I am still in heaven. But I have always been within you, too. You just never noticed me. I am your strength and wisdom. I am your holy living and your zeal for my Namesake. Feel my power and quench it not, for it is your promised gift to all eternity.”
And Christian wept for having so kind a God to call his own.
Part B – Distorted Theology
Why would a monotheistic religion choose such difficult doctrine? (And make no mistake, Christianity is a monotheistic religion.)
The answer is that Christianity didn’t choose the doctrine of the Trinity; the Trinity choose Christianity… to be its champion and defender and beneficiary. Eventho the word ‘Trinity’ is never used
in the Bible, theologically it is a useful term: a combining ‘tri’ and ‘unity’… three united in one. (The word "Trinity" comes from "Trinitas", a Latin abstract noun that means "three-ness", "the
property of occurring three at once" or "three are one".)(from Reference.com) It would have been far simpler for the Church (a.k.a. orthodox Christianity) to have gone along with the many heresies
and misunderstandings with which she has had to battle.
Take Monarchianism (= existing in hierarchy) for instance. Why not just say Jesus was God’s first and most important created being? Ancient Arianism and modern Jehovah Witnesses say this. Most of the other Christian doctrines would not have been compromised (much) by this. Why insist on Jesus being God incarnate? BECAUSE that’s what the Bible indicates, explicitly in the New Testament veneration of Jesus, and implicitly in the Old Testament prophecies and types and theophanies.
Or maybe Polytheism (many gods)? Goodness knows this would have been easier to sell to an already polytheistic pagan world than trying to sell Jewish monotheism with a twist. The Mormons affirm this to this day, namely that the Trinity is about three Gods. It is even what the Muslims accuse us of (technically known as Tri-Theism). BUT NO, the early Christians firmly clung to Monotheism, indeed one of the earliest accusations against them was as “Atheists” because they claimed that all the other gods were either inventions or demons. Yet they still maintained the divinity of the Son (and His worthiness of praise alongside the Father) and the personhood of the Holy Spirit.
Or how about Modalism (different modes), a.k.a. Sabellianism? Have you ever heard of the Trinity being compared to water? You know, that it has 3 ‘states’ it can be in, namely solid, liquid, and gas? The trouble is that the analogy breaks down in that water can’t be all three at the same time (unless you wish to try to explain the ‘Triple Point’ of chemistry to an incredulous layperson). The modern “Oneness” denominations broach this concept, tho it is as old as Sabellius (ca. early 3rd cent.) and his opponent, Tertullian. The Trinity is not about one God wearing three different masks for us to look at Him with; it is one God being three distinct, different Persons in relation to His creation, yet never ceasing to be one God.
Or just let Jesus be a man. Maybe even a good man (popular belief). Maybe even a noble teacher (Judaism). Maybe even a prophet of God (Islam). Maybe even indwelt by the Spirit of God at His baptism (Socinianism), but not God from His very conception, not God from eternity past. Or let’s just let Jesus be a myth, someone to inspire us to better things, to nobler thoughts. I am starting to get ill.
So who is Jesus? To diminish Him is to reject Him. To reject Him is disaster. I’m betting the Christians got it right.