The idea of a triune God is one of the most mysterious things about Christianity. If you grew up in church you’ve probably heard of The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost). And if you’re like me, it probably took you a while to really start thinking about what those words really meant.
Who exactly are these characters? And are we talking about one God, or three Gods?
Let’s just put it out there that this construct is going to difficult. That’s okay. Difficult doesn’t have to mean impossible.
I suspect the difficulty comes with the suggestion of something existing that breaks the rules we use to understand existence. For us, we are born, we must grow, then we die. We live in a world of beginnings and endings. We live in a material world, where things are seen and measured. We live in time and space, where only one thing can occupy a given space at a given time.
So when we start dealing with the core construct of a God who is eternal, immaterial and not bound by time and space we should expect mini explosions in our brains. The very “other”ness of God is one of the precise things that makes him who he is — an infinitely more complex being than us.
All of that is to say, again, we should expect some difficulty. And that’s ok.
If you’ve ever asked someone to try to explain the trinity, you were probably fed one of many broken analogies. Which, by the way is not that big of a deal because most analogies break down if you take them far enough. That’s why they’re analogies. But Trinity analogies are especially prone to breakdown. Trying to describe three distinctively different things as the same one thing can do that to you.
Still, this would not be a good Trinity write-up if I didn’t offer up one of my own broken analogies. But first, a little Trinity algebra. Here’s some equations to think about.
- The Father is God, but he is not the Spirit or Son
- The Son is God, but he is not the Spirit or Father
- The Spirit is God, but he is not the Son or Father
How about that for confusion? You like it? Okay, now let’s do the same thing with water.
- Ice is H2O, but not water or steam
- Water is H2O, but not ice or steam
- Steam is H2O, but not water or ice
How about that? Not bad, eh? We have three distinct names for H2O, largely because the properties of these forms are distinct. Ice is distinct and serves a particular purpose, as does liquid water and steam. Each has the same makeup harnessed for different uses. Could it be that the Holy Trinity has an analogous makeup? We could even go further and make it personal. Let’s try you and me in this equation.
- My mind is me, but not my body or spirit
- My body is me, but not my mind or spirit
- My spirit is me, but not my body or mind
Now isn’t that something? Christian belief is that God made man “in his image.” Perhaps our triune way of being is one of the biggest clues to the possibility of a divine three-in-one construct.
God in History
Traces of The Trinity are all throughout history as told by the Bible. From Genesis all the way through Revelation. They seem to show up from time to time. Like in Genesis 1:26, Matthew 3:16-17, 2 Corinthians 13:14, and 1 Peter 1:2 to name a few. But more than that, we can see three eras throughout our history. In each era, God is present in a form fitting for that era.
For instance, throughout the Old Testament we see God the Father as the standout character. The Father is directly dealing with humanity by speaking audibly to prophets, through a burning bush, through dreams and in many other ways. We see him judging the Earth through floods and fire and pestilence, and choosing a people to represent him on Earth. But in all this, we are told to look ahead to the next era. An era when the Messiah would come.
Once the Messiah comes, we meet God in the flesh in the person of Jesus. Through Jesus we see a different side of God. We see compassion. We see God’s love. We see God’s healing. And instead of judgment, we see sacrifice. God shows us a side of him with which we can better relate. He steps out of the cosmos and makes himself known to us in the best way — by becoming one of us. And He does this so that He can exercise the greatest moment in history, where the judgment of the Father collides with the unconditional, sacrificial love of the Son to create such a disruption in our history that we are still reeling from its effects. But even during this era, we are told to prepare for the coming of the third person — The Spirit of Truth (John 14:6).
This third era, the one we are now in, reflects the presence of God through his Spirit as shown through His people: the church. The true Church of God is the physical manifestation of the Spirit of God. As the popular saying goes, we are his hands and feet. God’s Church (not any one congregation, but the collective of his people) is here to echo the life of Jesus to the degree that all people can be saved from their sin.
There is no way I can cover a thorough presentation of the Trinity in a 1,000 word blog, but I hope to have at least given you something to think about. Something to ponder over. And I hope that you are a bit closer to accepting this mystery of the Trinity, not as a fabrication of some sort, but as a pleasant mystery of God’s construct that we can only catch a glimpse of through the Word he has left us.
Do you have any questions about the Trinity? Ask below.
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