“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NRSVue)
[Author’s Note: If you understand what I’ve written below, please explain it to me! The Trinity is a complex concept that we know only through our interaction and relationship with God, and to render it as a mental construct is impossible. Yet, preachers and theologians have tried to explain it for millennia, and we always fail. This post is my latest attempt to teach the doctrine of the Trinity, and I’m sure it will fall short, too. My apologies.]
This coming Sunday is the observance of Trinity Sunday. The Trinity is a core doctrine of the Christian faith, understandable not with our heads but only our hearts. It teaches us that there are three distinct Persons in one God, sharing the same divine nature, co-equal and co-eternal.
Our minds cannot grasp this doctrine, so to contain and control the unknown, we often try to reduce it to something simple. Some people use a math problem like this:
1 + 1 + 1 = 1; not 3
This formula helps us “see” the Trinity, but it doesn’t help us “understand” the Trinity because no matter how hard we try to make it otherwise, 1 + 1 + 1 will always equal 3. It’s “like” that mathematical formula, but it’s not “that” formula.
Or we try to make it a physics problem using the three states of water: liquid, ice, and steam. That analogy is theologically heretical (a form of “modalism” that we reject) and scientifically insufficient, too (since H2O can’t coexist in all three states at the same time in the same space as God can). While the Trinity may be “like” water, it isn’t, and no analogy fully and accurately captures the Trinity.
The Trinity is a unique concept of which the human mind can only get a glimpse of what it is, and often it’s a fleeting glimpse because about the time we think we understand it, whatever meaning we grasp slips away. It’s a mystery. It’s a paradox. But it’s a reality.
Dr. Elmer Colyer stated in an interview:
“Thomas F. Torrance once said that Trinitarian theology can never be more than a clarification, a deepening of that basic knowledge of the Triune God that every Christian has, that arises out of the gospel itself. When we talk about Trinitarian theology, we ask, “Who is this God [who creates everything out of nothing] that comes to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Who is this God poured out upon us in the Holy Spirit to the church? And how does our belief in this God then impact all our other beliefs and practices?” Trinitarian theology is all-encompassing; it isn’t simply about the doctrine of the Trinity but how that doctrine bears on all aspects of the church’s life, the church’s witness, the Christian life, prayer, and everything [about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ].
If none of what I’ve written here makes sense to you, I’ll try again on Sunday; however, I’ll focus more on how we experience the Trinity, leaving the math, physics, and complex theological thinking in my study. Trust me and believe I can make it interesting, even if I can’t make it understandable, and then be courageous, and invite some friends to join us in worship. See you on Sunday!